PHARMA/POLICY: The status quo versus the NHIN

Here’s my FierceHealthcare editorial this morning:

In a little over a week from now, there’s a special election in California with several propositions on the ballot–mostly to do with the political future of Arnold Schwarzenegger. But the two initiatives to do with drug pricing (Props 78 and 79) have seen an out pouring of money, almost all of it from drug companies. Their "Yes on 78, No on 79" commercials have plastered the airwaves, and the non-partisan Healthvote.org shows that by September 29 (i.e. not counting the last 10 days of campaigning) Big Pharma had donated nearly $80m for the joint campaigns, versus less than $2m spent by their opponents in favor of Prop 79.

The pluses or minuses of two propositions in one state are not the point of this editorial. The point is that a powerful piece of the status quo (Big Pharma) is prepared to spend so much to defend itself against what some might argue is a relatively minor attack on their pricing policy in only one state. The logical conclusion is that real reform of our health system, which will by definition require changes to the economics of physicians, hospitals and insurance companies, will meet even more vigorous resistance in defense of the status quo. Optimists who believe that the development of a National Health Information Network will cure healthcare’s problems might do well to note that the amount provided by Congress for that initiative to change the entire health IT system is only a fraction more than the amount Big Pharma’s rustled up for its single issue campaign in California.

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