There's no escaping politics and health care policy today. No matter what happens to the Affordable Care Act this morning (and no matter what you think of it either way), if you work in the drug industry, it's worth recalling that PhRMA (the big-company industry association) was very much in favor of the legislation. At least as it was finally passed, that is - there was a lot of quid-pro-quo-ing about drug reimportation and Medicare pricing, and agreement on those appears to have been PhRMA's price for supporting the bill. It was a deal that many objected to at the time, and in one of the few other times I've talked politics on this blog, I wondered if it was going to hold up even at that.
We know more of these details because of a set of e-mails and internal memos that show the group's agreement to advertise in favor of its passage, and to help senators and representatives who voted for it:
“As part of our agreement, PhRMA needs to undertake a very significant public campaign in order to support policies of mutual interest to the industry and the Administration,” according to a July 14, 2009, memo from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. “We have included a significant amount for advertising to express appreciation for lawmakers’ positions on health care reform issues.”
The goal, the memo said, was to “create momentum for consensus health care reform, help it pass, and then acknowledge those senators and representatives who were instrumental in making it happen and who must remain vigilant during implementation.”
One of the vehicles for this was a coalition (involving PhRMA, the AMA, and others) called "Healthy Economy Now" (HEN), which appears to have been started by White House staffers. None of that is surprising or particularly unusual, but an unusual twist involves the White House's David Axelrod and his former advertising company AKPD. The company was still paying Axelrod at the time, and his son was working there, and it appears that they got a good part of the advertising business that PhRMA and the other funded:
A 2009 PhRMA memo also makes clear that AKPD had been chosen before PhRMA joined HEN. It's also clear that some contributors didn't like the conflict of interest. When, in July 2009, a media outlet prepared to report AKPD's hiring, a PhRMA participant said: "This is a big problem." Mr. Baldick advises: "just say, AKPD is not working for PhRMA." AKPD and another firm, GMMB, would handle $12 million in ad business from HEN and work for a successor 501(c)4.
Well, that's Washington, and no mistake. If you don't sit down at the table and cut a deal with these folks, this sort of thing happens to you. But no matter which way the Supreme Court goes this morning, or what parts of the bill might be struck down, it will affect the drug industry. From PhRMA's standpoint, the current legislation represents the fruits of a great deal of lobbying and arm-twisting (in both directions), a great deal of money, and a great deal of worry about future revenues. This work may be in danger of going partially or wholly for naught. We'll find out at 10 AM.