Big Pharma Rewarding Virginia Republicans for Killing Drug Affordability Proposal

Gov. Glenn Youngkin addresses Virginia House of Delegates (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

By Carolyn Fiddler

October 4, 2023

Elections have consequences, and one of the groups most keenly aware of this fact are big special interest groups – among them, the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (aka PhRMA).

After benefiting from Republican control of the governorship and the House of Delegates in the 2023 legislative session, PhRMA appears to be rewarding their benefactors and helping the GOP win control of one or both legislative chambers in this year’s General Assembly elections.

In this year’s legislative session, Democrats in the state Senate proposed a measure establishing a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, a group of appointees without any ties to drug companies or manufacturers that would decide on whether to impose cost limits on certain drugs that are unaffordable or have high out-of-pocket costs.

Similar boards have been established in Maryland and Colorado, and the measure enjoyed bipartisan support as it passed the Senate in early February. The Commonwealth Council on Aging and AARP both supported the bill.

“We are in a time of historic inflation, and even with the 8.6% inflation we’ve seen, the price of prescription drugs has far outpaced that,” Jared Calfee, an associate state director for AARP Virginia, told Virginia Mercury. “These kind of price increases are unjustifiable, and they’re unsustainable, and they’re causing harm.”

But with Gov. Glenn Youngkin, PhRMA, the Virginia Manufacturers Association, and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce all strongly opposing the proposal, it met a swift end in a GOP-controlled House of Delegates subcommittee just two weeks later.

Now PhRMA appears to be rewarding Republicans for blocking a Prescription Drug Affordability Board with campaign donations.

Just months after House Republicans killed the bill, PhRMA donated $60,000 to Younkin’s Spirit of Virginia PAC, which is the top donor to both the Republican Party of Virginia and to the House Republican Campaign Committee this year. Additionally, PhRMA has given more than $20,000 directly to GOP Virginia House campaign committees.

“The MAGA Extremists in the Virginia GOP are hellbent on choosing tax breaks for these profitable corporations over our Virginia families,” said House Democratic Leader Don Scott. “If they are allowed total control of the state government, their desires will become reality. They will continue to prevent legislation from passing that would have kept prescription drug prices low, adding undue strain on our families.”

A summer poll from AARP found that 75% of Virginians support creating a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, and 60% were more likely to vote for a candidate who supports this proposal.

“Extreme Republican legislators will put pharmaceutical companies’ interests first over affordable medicines for working families,” said Freedom Virginia Executive Director Rhena Hicks. “Governor Youngkin opposed this bill, and extreme Republicans followed his guidance to kill it. Now they’re all benefiting from Big Pharma’s money this fall.”

  • Carolyn Fiddler

    Carolyn Fiddler is Dogwood's chief political correspondent. She is also the nation’s foremost expert in state politics with almost two decades of experience in statehouse machinations, and her comic book collection is probably bigger than yours.



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