The drug industry’s decision to agree to $80 billion in concessions to the White House was short-sighted, will hurt drug manufacturers and their customers, and "has all the markings of a deal gone sour," House Minority Leader John Boehner wrote Monday to his former colleague, Billy Tauzin, who now heads the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
"When a bully asks for your lunch money, you may have no choice but to fork it over," the Ohio Republican wrote. "But cutting a deal with the bully is a different story, particularly if the ‘deal’ means helping him steal others’ money as the price of protecting your own."
The language was remarkably strong, given the drug makers' longtime ties to Republicans and Tauzin's past service as a Republican congressman from Louisiana and chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. In the letter, Boehner urged PhRMA to abandon its $150 million health care advertising campaign "and listen to the American people, rather than continue to collaborate on an effort to spin them."
He also noted remarks from House Democratic leaders that they are not bound by the deal between White House and PhRMA and that the lawmakers intended to push for further concessions, such as those sought by House Democrats that would allow the government to negotiate with the industry over drug prices for Medicare.
The deal with the White House calls for drug manufacturers to give most seniors a discount on brand-name drugs when they reach a gap in Medicare’s prescription drug coverage which is also known as the “doughnut hole.” The discounts would occur over the next decade.
"Big Government is changing the terms…because it can," Boehner wrote. As a result, he states, the jobs of PhRMA employees "are no more secure than they were before, the threat to PhRMA’s groundbreaking medical research remains, and the American people -- including PhRMA’s customers and the families of PhRMA employees – face the prospect of higher costs and reduced quality in health care."
PhRMA Senior Vice President Ken Johnson said Boehner was entitled to his opinion. "We’ve been working for more than a year now to advance health care reform. At the end of the day, we only have one goal: making sure every single American has access to high quality, affordable health care coverage and services. We believe that will benefit patients, the economy and the future of America. We’re doing the right thing." Johnson declined to comment on the timing of Boehner’s letter or its contents.