- The Washington Times - Monday, October 7, 2019

A high-powered conservative coalition released a seven-figure ad buy Monday targeting a push by House Democrats to lower drug prices, saying the bill would set price controls, hobble medical research and increase taxes.

The television and digital ad by the Coalition Against Socialized Medicine, led by the American Conservative Union, is scheduled to run in Washington, D.C., and “targeted Congressional Districts,” along with a full-page ad in the Orlando Sentinel.

“Liberals in Congress say they want lower drug costs. But they really want a down payment on their socialized medicine scheme,” says the television ad featuring shots of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont.

Ms. Pelosi unveiled legislation last month aimed at reducing drug prices that would put the government in charge of negotiating a “fair price” for the 250 most expensive patent-protected pharmaceuticals, with companies that fail to cooperate facing a 65% escalating excise tax on sales.

Coalition executive director Marc Palazzo said the “socialist price controls are a threat to patients, innovation, and the economy.”

“They would hinder access to and degrade quality of care, serve as a death-knell for innovation, and impose crippling new taxes of up to 95% on the medicines patients depend on,” he said in a statement. “This plan is nothing more than the first step of a total government takeover of the health care system – a dream for a San Francisco liberal, but a nightmare for patients, innovators, and taxpayers.”

Republicans, including President Trump, have also sought to lower pharmaceutical costs, but the Pelosi-backed bill short-circuited bipartisan efforts in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, prompting ranking member Rep. Greg Walden to accuse Democrats of putting “politics over progress.”

Ms. Pelosi has argued that the bill, which also sets an out-of-pocket $2,000 cap for Medicare co-pays, would boost innovation by reinvesting “savings” from the lower negotiated prices to research at the National Institutes of Health.

“It stops drug companies from ripping off Americans while charging other countries less for the drug,” Ms. Pelosi said at a Sept. 19 press conference.

Critics argue that there’s a way to lower out-of-pockets costs for consumers without putting research at risk. Of new drugs introduced between 2011-18, 89% are available in the United States, as opposed to 62% in Germany and 60% in the United Kingdom, according to the Galen Institute.

European drug firms once led U.S. companies by 24% in spending on research and development, but since the introduction of price controls, Europe now trails U.S. investment by 40%.

“If the U.S. emulates the European price-setting example, innovation here almost certainly will suffer,” said the Galen Institute’s Doug Badger.

The ad campaign, timed to Mr. Trump’s speech Thursday on health care at the Villages retirement community in Florida, where he signed an executive order once titled, “Protecting Medicare From Socialist Destruction,” but renamed, “Protecting and Improving Medicare for Our Nation’s Seniors.”

The coalition’s members include Heritage Action, FreedomWorks, the National Taxpayers Union, Club for Growth, Citizens Against Government Waste, American Commitment, and the Committee to Unleash Prosperity.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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