Monday, June 11, 2018

Greg Walden gets "award" for keeping drug prices high

Greg Walden advertises an "award" that calls him a "hero."


Award from whomDrug lobbies that push for higher drug prices for American consumers and taxpayers. 

Hero for what?  Walden has been on their side.

Really. 

This ad is deceptive and shameless.

Greg Walden ran a large color ad positioning himself as a friend of health care affordability and access. The ad begins "For millions of seniors across America, innovation in health care means more affordable treatments and accessible care."

Affordable. Accessible. Greg Walden recognizes people want that. 

Greg Walden's problem is that back at the Capitol as Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee of the House his job was to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would have reduced affordability and access to health care for tens of thousands of the working poor in his District, plus people with pre-existing conditions. 

Walden is stuck with that record.  

Here's the half page color newspaper ad:

Photograph of my Mail Tribune paper for Sunday.


Walden's campaign may have hoped people would glance at the ad and just absorb the idea that Walden is getting health awards. Good old Greg, nice guy.

But look closely.  

The main sponsor is ALSIC, the American Life Sciences Innovation Council. Anyone can Google them. Here is their home page:


Click: http://americanlifesciences.com
Read what they lobby for. They want high drug prices and lobby to keep them in place. They oppose Medicare and Medicaid doing what every other country does--use their market power to negotiate lower prices

Go to the site and click on "Issues."  See for yourself. 
They outline their mission and goals. 

They say "cost controls" on drug prices are bad

"Rebates" and other discounts on pharmaceuticals are bad

Medicare limits on the amounts taxpayers pay providers to prescribe drugs are bad

Drugs going generic--that's bad

"Our mission is to educate the public and policymakers about the effects of government regulation on key factors that drive life science innovation."  The key factor is keeping Congress on board in support of the drug companies' high margins by charging Americans higher prices than they charge anyone else. 

That's who gave the award to Walden.

It is a hard case to make to the American public--the benefit to us of paying way more. The drug companies say it allows them to fund research. They don't mention it also allows them to fund lawyers who tweak patents to keep drugs from going generic, nor the direct-to-consumer ads, nor the political donations to friendly politicians that complete the circle. They don't mention that by lobbying to stop Medicare and Medicaid from negotiating prices they are using the Congress to interfere with the market to keep taxpayers paying more.

Walden doesn't defend high priced drugs. That isn't in the ad. He obscures by conflating high drug company margins with affordability and access.

There are two other organizations that lent their credibility to this "award."

They are more of the same.

Caring Ambassadors. They have a website.

Caring Ambassadors appears to be a boutique lobby group organized as a 501-C-3 tax deductible organization, dedicated to educating individuals to seek drug solutions to their chronic disease, plus influencing legislation. It is essentially a drug marketing company, named to look like a patient advocacy group, with a brother, Randy Dietrich, paying the salary of its sole professional employee, his sister. Read the IRS form 990, link below. It's all there.

Contributions come mostly from drug companies. The organization promotes patients with chronic illnesses getting drug treatment, using the drugs made by the group's contributors. One disease is Hepatitis C. A primary drug for this is EPCLUSA, and a course of treatment costs about $75,000 in the USA. The drug is made by Gilead Sciences--a major contributor to the organization. (The same course of treatment costs $45,000 in Canada, where they negotiate drug prices.)

They consider Greg Walden a "hero."

Below is a page from their IRS filings on sources of funds:
Financial Report: their form 990


Another organization offering this "award" to Walden is One in Four Chronic Health.  Who are they?  Their one-page website calls themselves a "patient advocacy coalition serving people in Oregon and Washington."

Are they real? Well, it has a name, a token web presence, an outdated Facebook page, a nearly empty Linked-in page, and a mail address in Clackamas, Oregon. 
Click: one page website

Its Facebook posts from early 2017, when new posting stopped, suggest the group's orientation was getting experimental and other new drugs approved for payment by insurance companies. 

That's it. They lent their name to Walden.


What is really going on here?

Deception and salesmanship.

His actions as Chair of the House Committee that wrote the repeal of the ACA put him on the side of reducing access to health care. If Walden is politically vulnerable it will be because voters recognize that the Walden they see in his ads and at Town Halls is very different from the Walden who works to accommodate the Freedom Caucus in the GOP in D.C. There are two Greg Waldens.

So, he is busy selling the image he wants, not the reality. He enlisted drug-company groups to call him a "hero." His campaign puts "affordability" and "access" in the lead. He and the drug lobbies know better than to cheer for high drug prices, so they call it "innovation" instead, and imply that this means the working poor can get it, even though his actions in Congress worked so they could not get it.

The ad is deceptive. It is what Walden wants to sell, but not what is real.




7 comments:

Keith Lollis said...

This is right on the money Peter. My jaw dropped when I saw this ad in the Mail Tribune. So deceitful! I hope that the people of the 2 District will remember his lame defense of the Trump Care plan that he was the architect of, and finally retire him from office this November. We need a congressman that actually works for all Oregonians, not the Wall Street billionaires who fund his candidacy.

Jeff said...

This is just an excellent post, a clear analytic snapshot of the workings of the Swamp. It shines light on exactly the kind of distortions that lead us as a nation to accept the absurd (Medicare is FORBIDDEN BY LAW to even suggest to Big Pharma that they discount unit prices in recognition of huge-volume purchases? On what planer other than Earth--only the USA, really--in 2018 can that possibly make sense?) This details one of the many strategies that have radically enriched the very few at the expense of everyone else.
What would be different if major media in this country, the Mail Tribune included, saw it as their responsibility to balance carrying this Walden ad with a story like Peter has written covering the ad's strategy and origins? I'm guessing they know that would be the end of dollars from this advertiser.
What's wrong with this picture?

Rick Millward said...

I'd go a step further and suggest that the placement of this ad, which I'm supposing is running all over the state, indicates that the Hon. Mr. Walden does believe his constituents are, to put it kindly, easily misled.

The GOP house of cards depends on a continuing strong economy, and ironically, continued resistance from Democrats on many of the policies designed to turn back the clock on healthcare reform. The real increases in premiums have yet to come, after the midterms, so without any solid evidence ads like this can have an effect. Thanks for the research...this could even be Russians!

Anonymous said...

Thank you again, Peter Sage, for true journalism, real political analysis. Question now is how can Jamie McLeod-Skinner best convey this truth to voters in the 2nd Congressional District?

Up Close: Road to the White House said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Epclusa is for treating people with strains 2 & 3 and are harder to treat. The majority of Hep C patients have strains 1 and 1A, Epclusa will never replace Harvoni in the treatment of people with the 1 and 1A strain. It's an excellent drug, saving lives everyday. You can buy it in India for $1250 dollars which is much more fun than going to Canada. Lil medical knowledge for you.

ljbb said...

RE: “2018 Champion of Health Care Award” from the American Life Sciences Innovation Council." Upon receiving flyers about this same award, in Union and Wallowa counties, Walden's constituents saw right through it. Look at these Letters to the Editor:
https://www.lagrandeobserver.com/opinion/6303703-151/letters-to-the-editor-june-11-2018. After also describing the pharmaceutical company board members of this "Council" giving the award, one writer says that yes, Walden does deserve a reward from his biggest donors for his efforts to protect unregulated drug prices for consumers!

Jamie McLeod-Skinner is right--the voters of Walden's district are not being fooled by his old game. They are not forgetting that he tried to deny them medical insurance coverage by repealing the ACA in the House, and his inaction on the opioid crisis in his own district, until now--campaign season. (And it remains to be seen what he actually DOES about it ) Btw, I would love to hear what Veterans in the district are saying about Walden these days. After all, Walden is always looking for photo opps. with them. Good, thorough research on this blog, Mr. Sage.