Thursday, September 24, 2009

The advertising deal in the healthcare bill

I guess Senator Carper just made it official yesterday but yes, the pharma lobby is funding pro-healthcare legislation advertising.

The LA Times mentioned the deal last month: "If a package passes Congress, the pharmaceutical industry has pledged $80 billion in cost savings over 10 years to help pay for it. For his part, [chief pharma lobbyist Billy] Tauzin said he had not only received the White House pledge to forswear Medicare drug price bargaining, but also a separate promise not to pursue...importing cheaper drugs....[D]rug companies -- Washington's leading source of lobbyist money -- now have 'a seat at the table' at the White House and on Capitol Hill as healthcare legislation works its way through Congress. If nothing else, a popular president who six months ago criticized drug companies for greed now praises their work on behalf of the public good... Tauzin's trade association, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, is helping to underwrite a multimillion-dollar TV advertising campaign touting comprehensive healthcare legislation."

Here's what I wonder: every so often, you hear someone say that drug companies should not be allowed to advertise directly to consumers. This is an attractive argument mostly because no one likes to watch a Flomax commercial. But the reasoning seems to be that pharma ads encourage patients to ask for drugs they don't need. I've never agreed. Never. But I understand the point. Now, do you hear anyone opposing pharma's right to fund political ads? For or against any piece of legislation or any candidate? If drug companies shouldn't talk directly to consumers, should their lobbying organization be allowed to talk directly to voters? Also, how comfortable is everyone with an ad budget being part of a politician-industry deal? Especially right when new FDA ad regulations are being considered?

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