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Pharma’s Not-So-Lame Duck Session

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Washington – and much of the politically aware public – is keenly focused on President-elect Trump™’s cabinet selections. But quietly, Congress has returned to work for its lame duck session and is poised to pass one of the most important bills of the year (with bipartisan support, no less!).

The 21st Century Cures Act, introduced by Republican Representative Fred Upton, is a wide-ranging piece of legislation that aims to improve public health through increased funding to the National Institutes of Health, speedier drug trials, support of opioid addition services, and greater health IT investments. It is widely regarded as a piece of legislation that will truly improve health outcomes.

It will also save pharmaceutical companies billions.

The bill is a huge victory for the industry, which is chiefly represented by The Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA. Major pharma companies spend incredible sums of time and money adhering to government regulations concerning drug testing. The 21st Century Cures Act – if passed – will give the Food and Drug Administration discretion to reduce testing requirements on a case-by-case basis. The result will be a shorter to-market timeline for each drug and a substantially reduced development price tag.

Lost in the tempest of presidential politics has been the noteworthy K Street effort in support of the 21st Century Cures Act. According to The Center for Responsive Politics, almost 1,500 lobbyists representing 400 different organizations took part in shaping the bill. PhRMA alone spent nearly $25 million.

Too often, corporate lobbying (especially in health care) is met with kneejerk condemnation. But once the dust settles in Washington, the 21st Century Cures Act will get the attention it deserves. And in the opinion of this practitioner, we’ll find an excellent case study for how to execute a public affairs campaign that achieves mutually beneficial results and preserves industry/corporate reputation.

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