August 5, 2022
Dear Member of Congress,
Yesterday the pharmaceutical industry and its lobbyists — PhRMA — displayed their true colors yet again in a letter purporting to speak for the interests of patients. They do not, and this letter aims to set the record straight.
I am a cancer patient and the founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now — the only national patient organization focused exclusively on policies to help patients by lowering drug prices. We are independent, bipartisan, and we don’t accept funding from any organizations that profit from the development or distribution of prescription drugs. In just over five years of existence, our community has grown from zero to more than a half-million patients, family members, and allies.
In direct contrast to PhRMA, we are proud to be able to advocate on behalf of more than 3 in 4 Americans — Democrats, Republicans and independents — who support passage of the drug pricing provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act. The drug companies ignore the will of the American people and characterize the legislation as “hyperpartisan.” But, in a nation sharply divided on so many issues, this legislation enjoys overwhelming, omni-partisan support. Voters want you to pass this bill.
Americans are desperate for reform because this affects so many of us — it is a lived experience. Fifty-one percent of cancer patients report going into debt because of the price of their care, with chemotherapy and pharmacy drugs cited among the top reasons for that debt. “Financial toxicity” is a well-studied and common side effect of being a cancer patient.
The drug price reforms in the Inflation Reduction Act help patients have access to the drugs they need now and ensure the future drug innovation we need at prices we can afford. Time and again, PhRMA has tried to scare patients with threats that people will literally die because lower prices — even just slightly lower prices — will decimate innovation. But the Congressional Budget Office says the legislation will result in just 15 fewer new drugs out of 1,300 over the next 30 years. In its letter, PhRMA attempts to refute the CBO findings with an issue brief that is not peer-reviewed, and the funding for which, along with author conflicts, are not disclosed.
PhRMA threatens that this legislation will cripple the President’s Cancer Moonshot. But there is a reason we need ARPA-H to get the speed we are seeking in the quest for new cancer treatments and cures: PhRMA won’t invest in risky research on its own — taxpayers must underwrite and lay the groundwork for the industry so it can garner high profits with low risk. Every one of the 356 new drugs approved by the FDA from 2010-2019 was based in some part on research paid for by taxpayers through the National Institutes of Health.
For me this is personal. As a patient with incurable cancer, I need innovative new drugs, or I am going to die sooner than I hope. But drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them. That’s why the Inflation Reduction Act is so important to patients like me — it restores balance to give us the innovation we need at prices we can afford.
PhRMA claims that drugs will not be available in the U.S. if we lower prices. That is just a red herring. Simply put, PhRMA prioritizes the United States to sell its drugs because we are the largest market in the world with the highest prices in the world. And after enactment of the Inflation Reduction Act, the U.S. will still be the largest market in the world with the highest prices in the world. It is silly to suggest that drug companies will not want to mine the vein of gold that is the U.S. pharmaceutical market.
But the statement that truly reveals PhRMA’s world view came not in the letter but in an interview with Politico about the letter. CEO Steve Ubl said, “Those members who vote for this bill will not get a free pass. We’ll do whatever we can to hold them accountable.” In other words, PhRMA believes members of Congress should ignore the will of the people — ignore the voters who elected them — and vote to maintain the industry’s power to dictate high prices to the American people. PhRMA places its profit ahead of the needs and wishes of the citizens of this country. And that says it all.
We want to be clear about this threat by PhRMA against members of Congress with the courage to stand up to the industry: You have the will of the people behind you. We will be there to make clear that when it came time to choose, you chose to stand with patients and the American people over multinational drug company bullies.
On behalf of patients and the vast majority of the American people, stand with us and vote yes on the Inflation Reduction Act to lower drug prices.
Cancer patient and founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now