As patient groups attack the industry's main advocate, the Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), on issues ranging from pricing to marketing spend, other organizations are stepping up to represent pharma's interests. The National Pharmaceutical Council (NPC) has recently garnered media and industry attention through more exacting communications plans and a nonprofit, educational stance.
"Because we don't do any lobbying, like the folks at PhRMA do, we often have entry into discussions where policy makers discuss issues," says Pat Adams, NPC vice-president of business development. "In the last couple of years, though, we realized that we can't rely on our member companies to communicate the messages and research results of studies, so we have begun to focus more on our research rollout and communications projects."
NPC worked with the Alliance for Health Reform and sponsored a conference aimed at educating Capitol Hill legislators about the relationship between pricing and R&D innovation. The strategy allowed the organization, which is designated a 501(c)6 trade association, to walk the line between appearing as a neutral third party while still affecting legislation.
"It is a value-add for the industry when you attract an audience and enlighten them for three hours about theissues surrounding innovation," says John Iglehart,editor of Health Affairs and conference moderator. "Congress hasn't dealt with the pharmaceutical industry in terms of financing drugs since 1989, when the catastrophic health insurance bill was enacted and then repealed. So until now, congressional staff have ignored or neglected the issues because they are busy dealing with the Patient's Bill of Rights and Medicare and Medicaid."
The NPC plans to conduct additional studies this year on the effects of newer therapies on labor force productivity and the appropriateness of drug spending trends. They also plan to develop a primer in conjunction with Health Affairs about medical innovation and will hold a briefing in the first quarter of 2002 promoting it to health policy makers.