Pharma Lobbyists Launch Million-Dollar Ad Campaign Directly Targeting Politicians

Everett Numbers
February 10, 2016

(ANTIMEDIA) Washington, D.C.Amid growing outrage and debate over prescription drug pricing, two lobbyist groups — the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) — plan to spend millions of dollars on feel-good advertising. Designed for politicians, not patients, the ads will be seen in Washington, D.C. and on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, according to The Boston Globe.

PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry’s largest trade group, will spend over $1 million on digital, radio, and print ads, while BIO, the equivalent for the biotechnology industry, will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars boosting its own promotional video, The Globe reports. BIO senior vice president Ken Lisaius said the two campaigns were not coordinated, though each group knew the other’s timing for release.

The ostensible point of the campaigns is to foster debate over high drug prices, however, neither group actually mentions pricing. Rather, the messaging alludes to the benefits of prescription drugs, such as family members living longer.

In a PhRMA ad called “Time is precious,” the narrator soothes, “Another decade with a spouse, a few more years with your best friend, a rich full life rather than one cut short. How do we place value on these? Today’s breakthrough medicines are delivering more than stunning outcomes, more than cures. They are giving us hope.”

Too often, these stories are missing in the public dialogue about the cost of medicines,” PhRMA senior vice president Robert Zirkelbach told The Globe. “The impact these medicines have on the lives of patients needs to be front and center in this debate.”


The BIO video, “We’re Fighting Back,” points to advanced treatments for cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes as some of the “more than 7,000 new medicines…being developed around the world,” giving patients “hope” and “courage.” These developments are implied to justify steep prices for prescription drugs, as lobbyists claim the profits from existing products finance further research.

The ad campaigns kicked off on Monday, a week after the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing titled “Developments in the Prescription Drug Market,” where participants discussed high drug prices, such as the $1,000 hepatitis C pill, Sovaldi.

Testifying, or rather, citing his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent in front of the committee, was notorious former Turing Pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli, who is infamous for raising the price of toxoplasmosis pill for HIV-positive patients from $13.60 to $750 (5,000 percent) after acquiring the rights to it.

According to the advocacy group Center for Responsive Politics, PhRMA spent $18.4 million on lobbying in 2015, whereas BIO spent $8.4 million, The Globe reported.

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