WASHINGTON — A Republican lobbying firm, the CGCN Group, is behind this week’s launch of the shadowy drug pricing organization, Alliance to Protect Medical Innovation, a partner at the firm confirmed to STAT Thursday.
It is still unclear who is funding the organization, but the group admitted Thursday it relied on some “seed money from people inside the [drug] industry.” The brand drug lobby BIO also said in a new release on its website Thursday that it is joining as one of APMI’s first members.
“APMI is our client and is in the process of naming the executive director,” Ken Spain, partner at CGCN Group, told STAT. “We are helping them with the rollout of the organization.”
CGCN is both a lobbying and communications firm with a small staff but a powerful client base that includes Microsoft, Boeing, and other major corporations. The group’s website advertises a number of services including direct outreach to members of Congress, grassroots development, message development, and crisis management.
Congressional records from the first half of 2018 do not show that CGCN Group is actively lobbying on behalf of any drug makers, but those records do not detail clients who might have other communications or consulting contracts with the firm.
APMI appeared to materialize out of thin air on Wednesday. The group’s website cast aspersions on pharmacy benefit managers, insurers, and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, all while being unapologetic about the high drug prices that drug makers set.
That rhetoric, along with the group’s lack of transparency around its funding and staff, quickly spawned attacks calling the group a dark money operation. One advocacy group, Patients for Affordable Drugs, accused PhRMA of financing the effort.
APMI denied that connection. “We can tell you one group that has not given us a dime (or been involved in our creation): PhRMA,” the group wrote in a Thursday blog post.
Robert Zirkelbach, executive vice president of public affairs at PhRMA, also denied any connection to the group. “@PhRMA has nothing to do with this coalition,” he tweeted Thursday.
APMI, nevertheless, described taking some “seed money” from industry officials in the same Thursday post. But because the group is new, an anonymous author wrote, “we don’t actually have a lot of funders to reveal.”
The group says when it has more donors it will begin to disclose them.
BIO, which shares a number of members with PhRMA, has embraced the group.
“Innovation and bad public policy cannot coexist. That’s an important message often neglected in the debate about health care costs, and that’s precisely the message this organization will help deliver,” BIO spokesman Brian Newell said in a statement.
Kate Sheridan contributed reporting.