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Big Pharma Is Taking Its Policy Agenda Straight to Lawmakers

U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.Photograph by Henryk Sadura—Tetra Images via Getty Images/Brand X

The pharmaceutical industry has been beset by a PR firestorm over its drug pricing policies and a number of high-profile controversies involving drug giants like Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX) for the past year. Now, it’s decided to fight back, taking its case for policy reforms straight to Congressional lawmakers.

The Hill reports that the drug industry’s largest trade group, PhRMA, is adopting a more aggressive tack under the leadership of its new president and CEO, Steve Ubl. “I think it’s fair to say this represents a bit of a pivot for the organization,” he told the publication in an interview. “We’re going to develop a proactive policy agenda, and we’re going to drive it.”

Ubl says that the group’s plan involves deploying scientists and patients who are benefiting from effective, but pricey, new drugs to meet directly with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The idea is to get ahead of the policy discussion in an effort to better frame pharma’s arguments and shape the contours of potential policy changes.

The effort’s timing is no coincidence, either. Last year, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to pass a major FDA reform bill called 21st Century Cures which has strong industry backing.

But the going has been considerably slower in the Senate, which has chosen to adopt a piecemeal approach to the legislation amid mounting disagreements between Republicans and Democrats over issues such as NIH funding and expedited drug approvals.

The House-passed version of 21st Century Cures contains a bevy of reforms heavily sought by drugmakers, including provisions that would speed up the approval process and grant companies more patent exclusivity on certain therapies.