The Newnan Times-Herald


Profits or Constituents

  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Dec. 17, 2019 - 6:57 PM

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In a recent opinion piece, Representative Drew Ferguson gave his reasoning for voting against H.R. 3, which was intended to reduce the costs of prescription drugs.

My question to Ferguson is, when do the lives of many of your constituents outweigh the massive profits being gained by the pharmaceutical and insurance industries?

This bill would drastically improve the lives of many of our most vulnerable citizens who, while living on a fixed income, often must choose between medication or food and other necessary items since it would allow Medicare to negotiate prescription prices as other countries do. His first argument is that the losses in profits would stifle innovation in new drug development. While

I understand that the costs of new drug development are expensive, the largest costs involved are the clinical trials necessary to get a drug approved by the FDA. But what he fails to mention is that the pharmaceutical industry mostly funds these trials themselves for two major reasons.

First, it allows them to self-regulate themselves and manipulate the data to maximize profit at the risk to the patient. Secondly, it gives the largest corporations a competitive advantage over smaller startups by making these trials too expensive for smaller companies and thus allowing them to buy up any competitor who develops a promising drug.

However, the solution to this problem is to turn over clinical trials to non-industry entities. Studies funded by the NIH, academic medical centers or voluntary specialty groups, classified as independent studies because these groups are not driven by money to achieve a successful outcome, should replace those done by the pharma companies. These types of trials are the gold standard for data and more likely to be in the best interest of the patient.

But a report from John Hopkins University showed that the number of clinical trials funded by the pharmaceutical industry has increased each year since 2006, while those funded by the NIH decreased because Republican budgets have steadily cut funding to the NIH and academic institutions. Ferguson’s second excuse is that this bill, according to experts, would be a job killer for the state.

He doesn’t cite what experts to which he was referring but a recent article supporting the Republican alternative bill, H.R. 19, was published by The California Life Sciences Association, a group whose board is populated by numerous pharmaceutical industry executives whose interests lie mainly in defeating H.R. 3. Finally, Ferguson touts the Republican alternative as the better option but interestingly, most of the bipartisan elements of this bill have been around for many years and could have been passed at any time.

It was not until the introduction and expected passage of H.R. 3 that the Republican caucus came together to promote a prescription drug bill. Also, these provisions are narrow and while they would certainly provide tangible benefits for a large number of Medicare Part D beneficiaries, they would largely not help Americans with private insurance, or even Medicare beneficiaries with high Part B expenses.

Tom Thomason