When Big Pharma Checks Dictate GOP Talking Points

If you’ve been paying even the slightest bit of attention to politics lately, you’d know that the hot-button issue of skyrocketing drug prices is causing quite a stir. Who wouldn’t want cheaper medicine, right? Well, apparently, the majority of congressional Republicans.

Polls say about 90% of Republican voters are all in for allowing Medicare to directly haggle drug prices with Big Pharma. But here’s the twist: the GOP in Congress seems to be singing a very different tune. It’s almost as if they’re reading straight off of a script drafted by the pharmaceutical giants themselves.

For instance, Sen. Marsha Blackburn took to social media, dropping the “s” word (socialist, of course) to bash the Inflation Reduction Act. Blackburn claims that this initiative would pump the brakes on life-saving innovations. Funny thing, though. Between 2017 and 2022, she netted a sweet $215,500 in campaign donations from the pharmaceutical realm, per OpenSecrets. As Tennessee State Rep. Gloria Johnson aptly quipped, “Did a Big Pharma CEO write these talking points for you on the back of a campaign check?”

Every GOP member in Congress gave a thumbs-down to the Inflation Reduction Act, a law designed to curb the exorbitant drug prices that plague American wallets. Now that the legislation has passed, the Republican hive mind is strategizing its reversal.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have rolled out a list of the first ten drugs up for negotiation—a move that, predictably, had pharmaceutical moguls up in arms. Here’s some food for thought: many of these drugs were already about to face off against generic alternatives soon.

For those who love some good ol’ statistics, the Congressional Budget Office predicts Medicare savings of a whopping $160 billion in the next ten years thanks to these drug pricing reforms. So why are the Republicans against it? Here’s a clue: their rhetoric sounds eerily similar to the pharmaceutical industry’s line about stifling innovation.

But the “innovation” argument by Big Pharma is getting some serious side-eye. A 2021 report highlighted that these companies, with their inflated drug prices, are making money hand over fist—76% more than they actually need to fund their global research and development.

Democrats, on the other hand, are standing their ground. Sen. Ron Wyden, in no uncertain terms, said, “I will fight any attempt by Big Pharma to undo or undermine the progress that’s been made.” Meanwhile, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi threw shade on the opposition, finding the idea that lowering drug prices could be portrayed as negative, downright “laughable.”

In this political chess game, it’s clear who the pawns are: the American public. As young progressives, we should always question: Who are our representatives really representing?