Clinton plan on US drug costs adds to pressure for lower prices

23 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Clinton plan to reduce drug costs gets shrugs from industry.

Hillary Clinton finally came out Tuesday against building the Keystone XL oil pipeline, ending her long refusal to take a stand on the most divisive environmental controversy of Barack Obama’s presidency — while thrilling greens and handing her potential GOP opponents a potentially powerful weapon.WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton’s plan to rein in prescription drug prices by reshaping how drugmakers do business is being met by skepticism within the industry. Clinton’s rejection of Keystone as “a distraction from important work we have to do on climate change,” delivered at a campaign event in Iowa, comes a month after she took another left turn on the environment by opposing offshore drilling in the Arctic. Pharmaceutical experts are mostly shrugging off the proposal from the Democratic presidential candidate, which she outlined Tuesday at a forum in Iowa.

Her move elated activists already preparing for Obama to reject the Canada-to-Texas heavy oil pipeline, more than seven years after its developer first applied for a permit. I oppose it.” The former secretary of state had previously said she shouldn’t take a position on the issue, saying she didn’t want to interfere with the Obama administration’s deliberations on allowing a project that would transport oil from Canada’s tar sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

The Clinton plan includes a combination of proposals long pursued by Democrats, such as cheaper drug imports from abroad and permitting Medicare to negotiate drug prices with companies. But she had expressed impatience in recent weeks over the drawn-out pipeline decision, which has been vigorously opposed by environmental activists and liberals who play a key role in the Democratic primaries. Republicans have since turned Keystone into a political symbol of their own, blasting Obama for repeatedly postponing the decision past the 2012 and 2014 elections. Clinton’s campaign events in New Hampshire and Maine last week were attended by activists who held signs that read “I’m Ready for Hillary to say no KXL,” demanding she oppose the pipeline. Clinton’s GOP opponents leapt to slam her on Tuesday, a sign that her appeal to the Democratic base won’t come without a cost should she become the party’s nominee.

The announcement comes amid growing consumer worries about prescription medication costs, which grew an estimated 12.6 percent last year, according to the federal government. Clinton “finally says what we already knew,” Jeb Bush tweeted after her Iowa remarks. “She favors environmental extremists over U.S. jobs.” Clinton’s nearly half-decade of silence on Keystone ended thanks to an activist who consulted in advance with, the upstart green group that has targeted her relentlessly on the pipeline. More than 70 percent of Americans think drug costs are unreasonable and favor limiting what drug companies can charge for medicines that treat serious illnesses, according to a recent poll from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

But even with broad public support, industry experts say price restrictions are unlikely to make their way through Congress, which is expected to remain in Republican hands. “You have to look at this as a rhetorical statement because these are proposals that have been roundly rejected by the Congress repeatedly,” said Dan Mendelson, president of Avalere health consultants, who served in the Clinton White House during the 1990s. Bill McKibben, the co-founder and godfather of the anti-pipeline movement, heaped particular praise on her after warning her about “mistrust” earlier this year. “I think she’s really coming to understand that climate is going to be a defining issue of this election,” McKibben told POLITICO. “And maybe, if you also look at her stand on Arctic drilling, she’s concluding that the most visible way to make quick progress is to keep carbon in the ground.” Tiernan Sittenfeld, a senior vice president at the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund, also cited Clinton’s opposition to Arctic drilling in calling the candidate’s Keystone move “inspiring and exciting.” Rather than blasting Clinton outright, the oil and gas industry’s top lobbying group lamented what chief Jack Gerard called “a missed opportunity to seize the true potential of our energy renaissance.” “It is most unfortunate for American workers and consumers that she has joined the forces of delay and denial,” Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said of Clinton. TransCanada, the Calgary-based corporation behind the plan to ship upwards of 800,000 barrels a day of heavy Canadian oil south to U.S. refineries, also sidestepped any criticism of Clinton. “Our focus remains on securing a permit to build Keystone XL,” company spokesman Davis Sheremata said in a statement. “The fundamental argument for Keystone XL has been and remains — the U.S. imports millions of barrels of oil every day, so where do Americans want their oil to come from? Bernie Sanders, who has been railing about high drug prices for about a year. “This appeals to the left wing group that supports Bernie and makes Hillary look like she’s a liberal for a few minutes,” said Ira Loss, a pharmaceutical analyst with Washington Analysis. Do they want it from Iran and Venezuela — where American values of freedom and democracy are not shared — or do they want Canadian and American crude oil transported through Keystone XL.” “I can’t wait too much longer.

The pipeline’s lengthy review remains in its final phase after five massive environmental studies and multiple lawsuits in the state of Nebraska, where anti-pipeline landowners have long challenged the legality of Keystone’s route through sensitive farmland. One key portion of the plan would require drugmakers to invest a certain portion of their profits into research and development, a direct challenge to some drugmakers who specialize in acquiring drugs from smaller companies and pushing them via billion-dollar marketing campaigns. White House spokesman Josh Earnest, speaking before Clinton’s remarks, said Tuesday that the review remains ongoing, and “once the State Department has put forward a recommendation the president will consider it and he’ll make a decision.” After years of oil-industry confidence that Keystone would eventually get built, however, even many of the pipeline’s supporters are openly resigned to its ultimate rejection by Obama. Clinton’s opposition on Tuesday only gave more hope to environmentalists who already are looking past what they expect will be the president’s denial of a permit for the pipeline to cross the U.S. Another proposal would place a monthly cap of $250 on out-of-pocket prescription drug costs to help patients with chronic or serious health conditions.

A separate requirement would curb the amount of money drug companies spend on advertising by eliminating tax write-offs for consumer-directed commercials. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, also indicated he favored the pipeline during remarks in 2012 that still appear in pro-Keystone television ads. But efforts to legalize such efforts have been blocked since the 1990s by the powerful pharmaceutical lobby and its allies in Congress, many who are Democrats hailing from states like New Jersey, Connecticut and California. But Clinton’s opposition does not come as a surprise to those who paid attention to her campaign chairman, John Podesta, an environmentalist and former senior aide in the Obama White House who opposes Keystone and has argued the project would increase the carbon emissions that spur global warming.

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