WASHINGTON — The advocacy group Patients for Affordable Drugs had a near-perfect night at the polls on Tuesday, marking its first year on the national elections scene by claiming success in all but one of the competitive elections it had waded into.

The group’s sole issue, lowering high prescription drug prices, even provided a rare point of agreement on Wednesday in a deeply divided Washington. In post-midterms remarks, President Trump cited high drug costs as a potential area for compromise with Democrats. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer — the Senate’s top Republican and Democrat, respectively — extended the same olive branch. So did Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat who will likely serve as the next speaker of the House.

Patients for Affordable Drugs is so pleased with the results, in fact, that its president is suddenly optimistic about working with even some of his staunchest foes.

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In a conversation with STAT Wednesday, David Mitchell, the group’s founder and president, talked up Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), who could play a key role on health policy in the next Congress — and who P4AD spent six-figure sums to oppose.

“Maybe there’s a world in which her historical sympathies to drug companies put her in the center of things with Trump and Republicans,” Mitchell said in an interview Wednesday. “It could be that Anna Eshoo is in a position of helping get the job done, helping to broker deals.”

The spirit of compromise from Mitchell’s group — and from many of Washington’s most powerful figures — comes as momentum builds for aggressive action on drug pricing, even though the divided Congress has left the path forward for such efforts unclear.

The anti-Eshoo spending represented a small chunk of the $10 million P4AD spent on midterms races, though many of those ad buys served only as pushback against pharma favorites in safe seats who were, unsurprisingly, all re-elected.

In the four competitive races in which drug prices were a critical issue, however, the group’s endorsements proved savvy.

Rep. Pete Sessions, a P4AD target, lost to a Democratic opponent in Texas who campaigned on promises to let Medicare negotiate with manufacturers for drug prices. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a veteran Republican from Maine, was neck and neck with a similar Democratic challenger as of Wednesday evening, in a race that the Associated Press still deemed too close to call. In New Jersey, the former pharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin came up nine points short in his bid for Senate.

Even in Delaware, where P4AD target Tom Carper coasted to re-election in a Senate seat against a longshot Republican opponent, the group boasted that his margin was far narrower than in two prior elections.

The results represent “a clear mandate to lower prescription drug prices,” the group said Tuesday night.

The bold words come from a group founded just this year, buoyed by seven-figure support from John and Laura Arnold, the billionaire couple using some of its wealth to tackle the issue of high drug prices.

Of course, the Democrat who focused on drug pricing and health care the most, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), lost her seat by six points. McCaskill was the only P4AD-endorsed candidate to lose on Tuesday.

But with Democrats and the White House singing the same post-election tune, Mitchell and the group’s executive director, Ben Wakana, said 2019 presented numerous opportunities in Washington and in state capitals around the country to address the issue aggressively.

“There’s a more favorable landscape in many states from Massachusetts to Wisconsin,” Mitchell said. “The political imperative to lower drug prices cuts across regions rural and urban. Voters want reform.”

A plurality of voters on Tuesday viewed health care as their top policy concern, according to multiple exit polls. Given that support, Wakana said, the group can now turn its attention to bills in Congress and state legislatures around the country.

But first, P4AD will spend the coming weeks focused on a shorter-term goal: countering the pharmaceutical lobby as it fights to attach a measure that would save the industry billions to a year-end spending bill.

With the House in Republican hands for only a few more weeks, the drug industry is widely expected to push for a change to the so-called donut hole, after a February law required drug companies to take on more of the responsibility for patients’ costs within a Medicare coverage gap.

In the immediate aftermath of the midterms — and with key pharma allies like Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) retiring or not returning to Capitol Hill — it’s hard to say whether or how that policy might advance. But Patients for Affordable Drugs isn’t shying away from the fight.

“We know pharma is going to take another run at this,” Wakana said. “It’s not a no — it’s a hell no.”

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  • The mass media is not covering this topic, since they are owned by the same profiteers and billionaires that invest in Pharma. At the same time many Americans, are insulted from the facts. Insurance and Medicare pay for these drugs, so many people are unaware of the true costs. The media doesn’t cover the number of people who die or suffer complications because they could not afford these drugs. The Alternate facts promoted by Pharma and their paid trolls on sites like this, are repeated across the Internet.

    Every newspaper in America has only written minimally on the topic, leaving out facts like the true costs, the amount of tax payer funded research that contributed to these “breakthroughs,” and even the number of local deaths or cases of infectious diseases, due to the costs.
    Here in America, there are only two allowed perspectives, either the hokey new age, alternative medicine, spreading fear about vaccines and Pharma, or the “free market ideology. There is little in between, or serious discussion.

    When my state rationed the Hepatitis C Cure, because the one that cured more than 95 % of Hep C cases was too expensive, our news did not cover it. Our Health Department did not bother to count the number of extra cases of infection due to the cost. They did not cover how many more people would need the expensive treatment, the innocent wives or partners, who would unknowingly get infected. This state had the highest rates of heroin addiction which was a large contributor to the Hepatitis C infections.

    The local media increased the stigma on these individuals, since the victims were mostly Hispanic or heroin addicts, who were incarcerated. The ran a crime all of the time narrative that misled the public on the danger to public health. The stigma and blame were easier than providing facts. One infection due to using the lower cost version, should have been an outrage, instead they glossed over it. If one of the subjects infected his pregnant wife, with hepatitis c, it should have given people pause. The cost was not in any newspaper, informing the public, while the stigma, racism, and hate encouraged towards the infected, was well enforced. The media helped silence the questions, all the while advertising even more expensive and often unnecessary drugs.
    The U.S in order to protect public health used to have Laws, about advertising health claims. There were Laws that made advertising pharmaceuticals illegal. The pharmaceutical industry did away with them. The Greed, Corruption, and Deaths have been normalized.
    Not many American were very concerned about the ties between the industry and the regulatory agencies. The media failed to cover the connections. The so called opiate epidemic, was brought about by the lies in the marketing of pharmaceuticals.
    There are Stations on Cable TV, that encourage pharmaceutical advertising, since it is profitable. No one noticed how the drivel and pseudo science promoted by Dr OZ, The Doctors, Dr Phil, all serve as filler for Pharmaceutical Advertising. No one spoke up when scientific studies were misreported to sell pharmaceuticals, supplements, and even new age quackery. It was all profitable, just like lying to the American Public!
    The news has not covered the topic of antibiotic resistance either. The facts are inconvenient and unprofitable, for the pharmaceutical manufacturers. The US is subject to alternative facts daily, these topics have been woven into advertorials, and content marketing.
    The Costs to our healthcare system are not publicized, in order to keep the public complacent. The number of deaths, and the unnecessary medical care are also secret. In Fact a lot of things are secret in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. Any effort to track any of this, was shot down by the industries that profit form the secrecy. Industry insiders, lobbyists, and CEO’s continue to tell our bought and paid for politicians that counting the dead, the adverse events or costs, are government overreach. CMS, the FDA, CDC, and even the DEA, have all been hobbled by the extraordinary and obscene profits generated by deceiving the public. It was a lot easier to blame immigrants and poor people, stigmatize the addicted, and blame the sick, than give us the facts.

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