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."
One recent project was an NPC-sponsored study conducted by Frank Lichtenberg, PhD, a Columbia University professor and economist,
that found value in increased consumer spending on new, brand-name medicines. His research took a macro look at how old treatments
compare to newer ones and demonstrated that patients' consumption of newer products significantly reduced illness-related
absenteeism at work and increased their chances of living longer. Despite increased spending on newer products, patients and
payers actually saved money because the use of new therapies reduced nondrug medical costs-most notably for in-patient hospital
care. The study was published in the September/October 2001 issue of Health Affairs.
"It's a mistake to focus on one component of health expenditures just because that expenditure is rising," says Lichtenberg.
"People who are using newer medications have fewer and shorter hospital stays, and because hospital care is so expensive,
even a relatively modest reduction can more than offset the higher cost of new drugs."
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.