Cancer patients’ super PAC takes aim at both parties over drug pricing

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, is shown.
House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, is shown. AP

A political action committee founded by cancer patients wants to lower prescription drug prices — and plans to take aim at lawmakers from both parties standing in its way.

Patients for Affordable Drugs Action on Tuesday launched $250,000 worth of digital and mail ads criticizing Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, for accepting money from pharmaceutical companies and voting against measures it says were aimed at providing relief for people with expensive prescriptions.

The unusual group is also targeting Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-California and Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, and Bob Hugin, Republican candidate for Senate in New Jersey — who it says have all rejected solutions to offer patients relief from high drug prices.

The group is running ads supporting Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, Gov. Charlie Baker, a Massachusetts Republican, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-North Carolina, and Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Florida — lawmakers it considers allies for its cause.

Founder David Mitchell of Potomac, Maryland, said in an interview Monday that his own life-prolonging medications cost roughly $300,000 per year. Along with his wife, a cancer survivor, Mitchell started the group to begin challenging pharmaceutical companies in state legislatures across the country.

Last year the couple added a super PAC to engage in electoral politics, and it reported more than $3 million in the bank as of June 30. Nearly all of the money comes from a left-leaning advocacy organization founded by Houston hedge fund billionaires Laura and John Arnold, who typically give to Democrats.

The group’s ad in Sessions’s district features a woman identified as Lora, who says the toughest part of her fight against cystic fibrosis is paying for her expensive medication. Lora says she voted for President Donald Trump – who campaigned on lowering drug prices – but can’t support Sessions, a Republican, because of his votes against proposals aimed at that same goal.

A mail ad against Sessions says he voted against two measures aimed at providing relief for people with expensive prescriptions, the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act and the Pharmaceutical Market Access Act.

Sessions’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment on the ads’ claims.

He faces a well-funded challenge from Democrat Colin Allred this November, in a district that Hillary Clinton carried by 3 percentage points in 2016.

Mitchell said the group plans to stay active in Sessions’s race until Election Day, and could potentially increase its financial investment.

A mailer from Patients for Affordable Drugs Action attacking Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas.
Andrea Drusch is the Washington Correspondent for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She can be reached at adrusch@mcclatchydc.com; @andreadrusch