Jan 23, 2017 - Health

PhRMA's new attempt to counter attacks on rising drug prices

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The main drug industry trade group is launching a massive ad campaign to highlight the medical advances that have been created in the last few years — a counterstrike against the attacks they're facing over rising drug prices.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America is pushing out a series of TV, print, digital and social ads, and there will be a series of events around the country to talk about medical innovation.

Why now: The industry is under fire from President Trump and many Democrats for rising drug prices, and PhRMA's leaders are concerned that the value of recent medical advances is being lost. PhRMA president and CEO Steve Ubl blames scandals around drug companies like Turing, Valeant and Mylan for driving the conversation through recent price hikes. But they say the campaign has been in the works for six months, and would have looked the same regardless of who was elected president.

We don't have a discussion today that addresses the value of the products, and it's driven by three bad actors. — Steve Ubl, PhRMA president and CEO

What you'll see: The ads will feature recent advances like personalized medicine — which finds treatments that are most likely to work on a given patient — and immunotherapy, which boosts the body's immune system to help it fight cancer.

What they'll spend: PhRMA spokesman Robert Zirkelbach wouldn't give exact numbers, but said it will be in the "high tens of millions of dollars every year" over the next four to five years.

What they want: Ubl says the drug industry wants to push for changes like "modernizing the FDA" to encourage medical innovation more easily, as well as changing the payment system to pay for the drugs with the most value.

What they would say to Trump: "I'm optimistic that we're going to find common ground," Ubl said. Asked whether he wanted to comment on Trump's proposal to let Medicare negotiate drug prices: "I'd rather not."

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