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Letters To The Editor

Readers And Tweeters: More Than Two Sides To Every Story

Letters to the Editor is a periodic feature. We welcome all comments and will publish a selection. We edit for length and clarity and require full names.

Dispensing The Facts — Or Dispensing With The Facts?

Kaiser Health News and PolitiFact HealthCheck’s rating of our advertisement on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s drug pricing legislation, H.R. 3, ignored key facts and third-party data that backed up the assertions made (“Pharma’s Take On The Pelosi Drug-Pricing Bill: Fair Warning Or Fearmongering?” Dec. 5).

In our ad, we correctly stated that H.R. 3 “would siphon $1 trillion or more from biopharmaceutical innovators over the next 10 years.” The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that just one part of the legislation (Title 1) would reduce revenues to the biopharmaceutical industry as high as $1 trillion. In addition, an analysis from Avalere, a leading health care consulting firm, found that H.R. 3 could “decrease manufacturer revenues by $1T for CYs 2020-2029 in the Medicare and commercial markets.” The KHN story excluded the Avalere analysis while providing no evidence that the impact was less than the amount estimated by CBO and others.

Moreover, our ad directly quoted CBO’s preliminary estimate, which said the bill “would result in lower spending on research and development and thus reduce the introduction of new drugs.” Despite being an exact quote, KHN still chose to rate this as “mostly false,” even though every person quoted in the article acknowledged there would be a reduction in new medicines.

The story also ignored a study from Vital Transformation, an economic consulting firm, which found H.R. 3 could result in at least 56 fewer innovative medicines from emerging biotech companies over 10 years. The impact on the entire industry would be much greater.

We stand by the claims we made in our advertisement and reject KHN’s analysis of our ad and the impact H.R. 3 would have on biopharma innovation.

― Robert Zirkelbach, executive vice president of public affairs, PhRMA, Washington, D.C.

— Ben Ippolito, Washington, D.C.

I was very glad to see Kaiser Health News look into and expose the false and misleading advertisements from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) that had been running in “Politico PM Playbook” over the past few weeks leading up to the House vote on H.R. 3, “The Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019.”

This is exactly the kind of spotlight that we need more of on an industry that is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into lobbying and false advertising in an attempt to stop any meaningful action that would threaten their record profits. We at Accountable.US are doing everything we can to expose the corruption, influence-purchasing and coziness between the pharmaceutical industry and the Trump administration, but we need the media to step up as well to help people cut through Big Pharma’s false advertisements and learn the truth.

Because to be clear: Corruption and lies may be par for the course in Washington, D.C., during the Trump era, but this is an issue that can’t be seen as simply another run-of-the-mill falsehood by a D.C trade organization. The cost of prescription drugs is a matter of life and death for millions of Americans and it’s an issue that elected officials have made commitments to address. But if the pharmaceutical industry is able to spread false and misleading information to policymakers and the public unchallenged and with impunity, then this critical work becomes far more difficult.

That is why following the Kaiser Health News analysis, I wrote a letter to the publisher and top editors of Politico requesting that the false advertisements be removed from the website and that further advertisements from PhRMA using assertions that have been labeled false be rejected.

― Kyle Herrig, president, Accountable.US, Washington, D.C.

— Gunnar Esiason, Hanover, N.H.

This ‘Warmline’ Is All Ears To All

I am the president of a nonprofit organization, Peers in Cayuga County, in Auburn, N.Y. We have been offering a “warmline” since 2015 (“‘Warm’ Hotlines Deliver Help Before Mental Health Crisis Heats Up,” Dec. 9). It operates 24/7/365. We volunteer in Cayuga County and mostly work with people within the county. But, when it comes to the warmline, we answer the phone and listen and talk with whomever is on the phone. We have received calls from out of the county as well as out of the state. We believe in supporting anyone who needs help and are open to anyone calling in to get the support they need. Of course, we don’t know which resources to direct them to nationwide, but people are people and we can support anyone. With that in mind, I would like to have our number listed in as many ways as possible so we can help whoever wants it: (315) 246-3004.

― Margaret Phinney, Auburn, N.Y.

Extra Pointers For Patients To Ward Off Billing Fraud

KHN Editor-in-Chief Elisabeth Rosenthal makes many excellent points (“Analysis: In Medical Billing, Fraudulent Charges Weirdly Pass As Legal,” Dec. 16), but please allow a few comments.

First, not to apply a neck brace in such an accident when the patient has been unconscious would be medical malpractice ― period.

Second, the article ignores patient responsibility. When a patient has been out of the hospital for a while, pain management should transition to one’s personal physician. Depending on state law, it may require an office visit, but it’s your personal physician’s job.

Regarding being offered unnecessary medical equipment such as walkers or commodes, just say no and sign that you refuse it. It is your choice. Actually, it could be argued that accepting unnecessary medical equipment constitutes fraud.

Finally, Ms. Rosenthal reminds us of post-accident “pfishing.” Accident reports are easily accessible. Honest businesses never cold-call patients. If you haven’t been told a referral is being made to “X” office and to expect a call, hang up! (Some states have laws forbidding this; you may wish to inform your state attorney general’s office.) Follow your doctor’s recommendations and don’t get hooked!

— Gloria Kohut, Grand Rapids, Mich.

— Sharon McCreary, Denver

I love this article! I want to know when we are going to stop accepting this as OK. Some of these bills can really hurt people who live on a fixed income. The government needs to step in and stop allowing these things to happen.

Michaela Reyes-Holmes, Thompson, Ohio

— Kurt Couchman, Burke, Va.

Related Topics

Cost and Quality Health Care Costs Mental Health Pharmaceuticals