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Big Pharma's Campaign To Save You From Facts

For those of you following the health reform debate, here are three good pointers:

1) Be suspicous of new interest groups with noble-sounding names.

2) Be very suspicious of uber-lobbyist Tony Coelho.

3) Be very, very suspicious of new interest groups with noble-sounding names that are run by uber-lobbyist Tony Coelho. 

A case in point is the organization that calls itself the "Partnership to Improve Patient Care." As the Wall Street Journal explains, it's a coalition that the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) established and is financing, with the ostensible goal of making sure research into the effectiveness of new treatments focuses on the best interests of the patients.

The real goal? To give the drug industry more control over that research, lest better information curb the use of unnecessary medical treatments and, in the process, dininish industry profits.

As Merrill Goozner--who, again, knows this material better than just about anybody--wrote a few months ago, this campaign

is nothing less than an effort to strangle comparative effectiveness research in its cradle by giving industry the right to veto controversial inquiries and limit the scope of research. Do publicly traded companies have a seat on the governing board of the Securities and Exchange Commission? Should we give Boeing and Airbus the right to determine the scope of the National Transportation Safety Board?s inquiry into airplane crashes?

Its simply bad governance to give industry a seat at the table when government officials decide what comparative effectiveness studies will get done.

As for Coelho, the former Democratic congressman, he's a longtime advocate for people with disabilities, which is admirable enough. But he also has a reputation--well-deserved, as far as know--as one of Washington's slickest operators. If the drug industry's financing of this effort doesn't give you pause, his place at the head of it should.

--Jonathan Cohn