KHN Morning Briefing

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Marathon Withdraws From PhRMA Amid Lobbying Group’s Review Of Membership Criteria

The drugmaker announced it was discontinuing its membership after it completed its sale of its Duchenne muscular dystrophy drug earlier that day. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry's lobbying spending has skyrocketed.

Stat: Marathon Pharma Is Latest Drug Maker To Leave Industry Group
Now that Marathon Pharmaceuticals has sold its Duchenne muscular dystrophy drug, the company unceremoniously withdrew from a big industry trade group, which began a review of its membership criteria two months ago after Marathon caused a stink over its pricing. The drug maker sent a note on Thursday night to the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America saying it is “discontinuing its membership in all relevant trade associations” after closing a deal earlier in the day to sell its drug to PTC Therapeutics. This is the second drug maker to leave the trade group. (Silverman, 4/21)

Chicago Tribune: Marathon Exits Powerful Lobbying Group After $89,000 Drug-Pricing Controversy
A Marathon spokeswoman declined to comment Friday on Marathon's exit from the group. But Marathon left the group the same week that its sale of the drug Emflaza to New Jersey-based PTC Therapeutics closed. Marathon announced last month that it would sell the drug to PTC after uproar over the drug's price. Marathon set the list price at $89,000 after it gained approval from the Food and Drug Administration to sell the drug in the U.S. Some families, however, had been importing the drug from overseas for as little as $1,200 a year. (Schencker, 4/21)

Kaiser Health News: Marathon Pharmaceutical Drops Out Of PhRMA Following Drug Price Controversy
The resignation also falls as PhRMA works on a review of its membership criteria. “My view is that we want to represent companies that are really swinging for the fences … [companies] that are taking enormous risks in bringing breakthrough treatments to market,” PhRMA President Stephen Ubl said in a recent interview with Kaiser Health News. “So we’ll be looking at our membership criteria to really focus on those attributes.” (Tribble, 4/21)

Stat: Pharma And Its Trade Group Spend Big On Lobbying So Far This Year
The beleaguered pharmaceutical industry’s top lobbying group spent about $8 million to influence the federal government during the first quarter of 2017, a roughly 33 percent hike over last year at this time — and its biggest expansion in at least five years. The surge is not a surprise. Earlier this year, a lobbyist for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, PhRMA, told STAT they planned to donate less and lobby more. They also raised their members’ dues to pay for more lobbying power. (Kaplan, 3/21)

Kaiser Health News: Drugmakers Dramatically Boosted Lobbying Spending In Trump’s First Quarter
Eight pharmaceutical companies more than doubled their lobbying spending in the first three months of 2017, when the Affordable Care Act was on the chopping block and high drug prices were clearly in the crosshairs of Congress and President Donald Trump. Congressional records show those eight, including Celgene and Mylan, kicked in an extra $4.42 million versus that quarter last year. Industry giant Teva Pharmaceutical Industries spent $2.67 million, up 115 percent from a year ago as several companies embroiled in controversies raised their outlays significantly. (Lupkin, 4/21)

And in other news —

Stat: Mylan Took West Virginia To Court To Push EpiPen Sales, Documents Show
Mylan has contended that its intensive marketing efforts save lives. But over the past year, the public has started to question whether the company’s business tactics are in line with the best interests of patients. Now STAT has learned of yet another previously unreported legal maneuver employed by the company to force one state to drive even more sales to its EpiPen, an epinephrine auto-injector used to halt potentially life-threatening allergic reactions. (Swetlitz, 4/24)

Chicago Tribune: Walgreens Pays $9.8 Million Settlement Over Drug Billing 
Deerfield-based Walgreens Boots Alliance has paid $9.86 million to the federal government and state of California to settle allegations that it inappropriately billed California's Medicaid program for drugs. A former Walgreens pharmacist, Loyd Schmuckley, and a former pharmacy technician, Debbie Rinehart, alleged in lawsuits that Walgreens improperly billed California's Medi-Cal program for certain medications. Medi-Cal will only pay for certain medications if they're used to treat specific diagnoses. (Schencker, 4/21)

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