Image of Biden and a Medicare insurance card

Andrea Austria / Media Matters | Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

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Right-wing media attack Biden’s efforts to lower Medicare prescription costs

Right-wing media are going after President Joe Biden’s plan to make prescription drugs more affordable, claiming that the price negotiation program will hinder the development of new lifesaving drugs, shift the cost back to consumers, and that the program constitutes government overreach. 

    • On August 29, the White House announced that it would require several pharmaceutical companies to negotiate the prices of 10 prescription drugs with Medicare. The Inflation Reduction Act granted Medicare the power to engage in negotiations with manufacturers. [The New York Times, 8/29/23]
    • According to the Center for American Progress, “Negotiation will improve access and affordability for the people who struggle the most with getting the medications they need and face significant health disparities.” Additionally, this policy will bring the U.S. in line with “the drug price regulatory practices of nearly all other high-income countries and narrow the gap between what Americans and those abroad pay for prescription drugs." [Center for American Progress, 8/30/23]
    • The Washington Post reported that “about 9 million seniors covered by Medicare’s prescription drug benefits used one or more of the 10 drugs in the past year and paid a total of $3.4 billion out of pocket.” Last year, an estimated 1 in 5 older Americans skipped or delayed getting medication due to cost. [The Washington Post, 8/29/23] [NBC News, 5/18/23]
    • Despite the right’s insistence that lower prescription drug prices for struggling older Americans will hinder research and development for new drugs, research indicates that there is no relationship between the amount that companies charge for drugs and how much they spend on research and development. A 2022 study concluded that “variation in drug prices could not be explained by research and development investments” and that “drug companies should make further data available if they want to use this argument to justify high prices.” [JAMA Network, 9/26/22]
  • Right-wing media are disregarding the benefits of the plan and accusing the Biden administration of overstepping:

    • One America News’ Zach Petersen took the side of pharmaceutical companies, claiming that they “argue that this scheme will have devastating consequences for people who are counting on new life-saving medications because it deters investment and stifles innovation.” He then quoted a pharmaceutical executive who claimed that “giving a single government agency the power to set the price of medicine will have long-lasting negative consequences,” and cited the CEO of Roche, who reportedly “has been warning that the Inflation Reduction Act hampers the development of new medicine because companies can't recoup the losses they take.” [OAN, One America News, 8/30/23]
    • One America News’ Monica Paige reported, “It's also really important to note that these price negotiations really aren't negotiations. They are fixing the price.” She also claimed, “Drug companies moving forward may not even decide to run clinical trials due to these negotiations or fixed pricing, so you may be seeing some high-risk situations here with this deal.” [OAN, One America News, 8/30/23]
    • The Washington Examiner quoted Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), who claimed, “The partisan law’s sweeping price-setting program ignores economic realities, and its implementation process has already begun to erode new drug development, including for cancer therapies and rare disease medications." The article also included a quote from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), who called the program a “socialist price-setting scheme.” [Washington Examiner, 8/29/23]
    • Fox’s Mark Levin claimed the program is a form of “price control,” and that “they have price controls in every totalitarian regime, which is why people are starving, which why they don't get access to medicines, which is why there is no development of new medicines, new technologies, and new products.” Levin also stated that pharmaceutical companies already help low-income individuals access medications, but that “a lot of people play the system. They lie about their income or they'll move assets, you know, to a relative, a kid or whatever. … And you get the drug for free for as long as you can demonstrate that you need it.” [Westwood One, The Mark Levin Show, 8/29/23]
    • HotAir called the negotiations “extortive” in the headline of an article that claims that the “laughably named Inflation Reduction Act” gave Medicare “the authority to force pharmaceuticals to negotiate prices on prescription medications, with force being the operative word.” Ed Morrissey, the managing editor of the publication, tweeted the article with the caption, “What exactly does ‘price negotiations’ mean when government is involved? Think of the process as somewhat akin to the old Monty Python skit: Nice pharmaceutical business ya got there. Shame if something … happened to it.” [Hot Air, 8/29/23] [Twitter/X, 8/29/23]
    • The Washington Times claimed that the program “will give the government the power to hammer down an arbitrary price for a drug onto manufacturers, negating the realities on the ground and ignoring the painstaking process it takes for a drug to be developed.” The subhead of the article reads “It will reduce older adults' options and our ability to find cures.” [Washington Times, 8/30/23]
    • Reporter Krysia Lenzo reiterated Big Pharma’s claim that the program “will stop [research and development] and it will prevent more research from occurring because these companies have to lower their prices.” Newsmax contributor Seth Denson then asked, “Do these costs get shifted to the private sector? I.e. jobs and people that get their benefits from their employer and things like that. … You got to make sure that that shift doesn't happen to every other consumer that’s not on Medicare.” [Newsmax, Wake Up America, 8/30/23]
    • Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro pretended that his experience as an “investor in biotech stock” means he can “say with confidence that investment will shift out of the sector and into other, freer sectors should the Biden administration move to quash profit margins in the sector.” He also cites the National Review’s Jeff Zymeri, who claimed that the negotiations will cause drug development to “drop off.” [Daily Wire, 8/30/23]
    • Fox host Ainsley Earhardt quoted Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America President and CEO Stephen Ubl, who claimed that “politics should not dictate which treatment and cures are worth developing and who should get access to them.” Ubl’s salary in 2021 was over $4.6million. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/29/23] [ProPublica, 2022]
    • Levin tweeted a link to an article on the program with the caption “Get ready for major shortages of life-saving drugs.” He similarly claimed on his radio show that there will be “tremendous shortage of these drugs.” [Twitter/X, 8/29/23] [Westwood One, The Mark Levin Show, 8/29/23]
    • Breitbart Senior Editor-at-Large Joel Pollak wrote that the program demonstrates that the Biden administration is “bought & paid for by the interests you pretend to oppose.” His full post read, “You mandated an experimental vaccine, and now you pretend to oppose Big Pharma. Not to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars Big Pharma spent to help Obama/Biden promote Obamacare in exchange for concessions. You're bought & paid for by the interests you pretend to oppose.” [Twitter/X, 8/29/23]