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Aug. 4, 2016

Report: Majority of Patients’ Groups Siding With Big Pharma Against Medicare Part B Pricing Reforms Receive Industry Funding

Of the 147 Patients’ Groups That Co-Signed Industry Opposition Letters to Congress and CMS, at Least Three in Four Get Funding From Big Pharma

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The overwhelming majority of patients’ groups opposing a Medicare Part B proposal to reduce drug expenditures got funding from the pharmaceutical industry, according to a new Public Citizen report.

The report, “Patients’ Groups and Big Pharma,” examined industry funding for 147 patients’ groups publicly opposing the Medicare Part B proposal, documenting disclosures of funding and sponsorships from the drug and medical device industry to 110 of those groups (75 percent of the total).

The patients’ groups voiced their opposition to the Medicare Part B reforms by signing either a letter to congressional leadership (organized by the Community Oncology Alliance) or a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (organized by the Partnership to Improve Patient Care). An additional 241 groups, mostly associated with doctors or the pharmaceutical industry – both of which have a financial incentive for opposing the reforms – also signed letters.

Because the report’s findings are based on voluntary disclosures that patients’ groups and pharmaceutical companies provide, they likely underrepresent the proportion of patients’ groups receiving pharmaceutical industry sponsorship. Total amounts of how much the groups receive from the industry are mostly unknown.

The Medicare Part B demonstration project, which Public Citizen supports along with numerous allied consumer and health groups, aims to remove incentives for needlessly prescribing high-priced medicines when equally effective and affordable alternatives are available.

Currently, physicians who administer a drug will be reimbursed for the average sales price plus six percent. The demonstration would test changing the reimbursement to the average sales price plus 2.5 percent and a flat dollar amount.

These findings come on the heels of a recent Public Citizen report revealing that members of the U.S. House of Representatives who oppose the reform received 82 percent more in campaign contributions from pharma than members who are not opposed.

“While it is certainly not the case that every patient group that takes industry money is a Big Pharma puppet, the fact that three-quarters of the patients’ groups opposing these reforms receive industry money should make policymakers skeptical of these groups’ independence,” said Rick Claypool, a Public Citizen research director and author of the report.

“Today, we pay doctors more when they prescribe higher-priced medicines – and so they do, even when there are affordable equivalents,” added Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program. “As a result, Americans pay more for health care. We struggle to pay medical bills and resort to dangerous pill-splitting, or even forego our treatments. The Medicare pilot program is an obvious, sensible reform to save money and thereby improve care. It is reasonable to ask whether pharma funding influences the position that some groups have taken.”

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