A new advocacy group advocating policies favorable to the pharmaceutical industry last week immediately faced, and pushed back against, accusations that it is a front for the pharmaceutical lobby, and declined to disclose who gave it funding.
The small lobbying firm CGCN Group said on Friday that it created the new group, the Alliance to Protect Medical Innovation. Drug pricing reform activists and several reports questioned who was behind the group earlier in the week, after the alliance sprung into life the previous week with no mention of who is on the staff or who funds it.
Patrick O’Connor, a partner at the GOP-aligned CGCN, issued a statement on Friday noting that he is the new group’s executive director.
“I believe there has never been a greater need to bring balance to the discussion around the issues of healthcare costs and medical innovation,” he said in a statement. The statement avoids indicating who funds the group, though.
The drug pricing reform group Patients for Affordable Drugs sent out a release earlier last week blasting the group as a front for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the biggest pharmaceutical industry lobbying group in D.C.
PhRMA told the Washington Examiner it had no involvement. PhRMA has engaged in an intense lobbying effort in recent years to push back on attacks that high list prices set by its members are to blame for the high prices consumers pay at the pharmacy.
The alliance sent out a blog post on Thursday that denied any involvement from PhRMA.
However, the alliance conceded in a blog post on Thursday that it did get some “seed money” from people inside the industry. The post did not list the companies or groups that gave that money or how much.
“Our group is new, and we don’t actually have a lot of funders to reveal,” the post said.
O’Connor told the Washington Examiner on Friday that the group was not disclosing its funders.
At least one drug industry group, though, is part of the alliance. The Biotechnology Innovation Organization, which represents drugmakers that produce specialty products called biologics, announced on Thursday it was joining the alliance.
“Small company innovators are at the center of the biopharmaceutical industry, and they will be disproportionately impacted by the flawed policies often touted as the way to lower the cost of prescription drugs,” the group said in a statement Thursday.
A spokesman for BIO said that the group is providing funding and support.
O’Connor wrote in his statement on the group’s website that he was a former reporter who worked for outlets like Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal. He said that the reporting now surrounding the drug pricing debate has been biased against the pharmaceutical industry.
“From my vantage as a former reporter, the conversation feels a little one-sided, so we would like to serve as a counter-balance where possible,” he said. “We also plan to highlight some of the extraordinary medical breakthroughs we witness regularly and, in time, the people behind those innovations, and, most importantly, those who benefit from them.”
So far, the group’s website has put out statements and blog posts highlighting numerous pharmaceutical industry-friendly policies.
For instance, it blames drug middlemen called pharmacy benefit managers, rather than drugmakers, for high prices.
“In theory, PBMs are supposed to pass these negotiated savings onto consumers and patients,” the group’s website said of the middlemen, which represent drug plans for employer and union-sponsored health plans. “But in reality, many PBMs pocket large chunks of these rebates as profits.”
PhRMA has similarly attacked PBMs.
The PBM industry has responded that drugmakers have set list prices far too high, and they are the reason for high prices.