EXCLUSIVE: A conservative tax group is intensifying its efforts against certain Senate Republicans through a multimillion-dollar campaign aimed at their support for reforming a crucial aspect of the drug pricing system. This campaign comes ahead of an anticipated vote on a health care package later this month. The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) has identified Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., along with Republican senators Katie Britt of Alabama, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, Mike Braun of Indiana, and Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi as targets for their opposition to Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs).

CCAGW President Tom Schatz stated, “The Bernie Sanders-led effort to expand government control over our healthcare system should be anathema to every American and fiscal conservative in Congress. CCAGW has fought for decades to prevent a government takeover of the healthcare system and is launching this latest multifaceted effort to prevent the enactment of any legislation that would move the country closer to socialized medicine.”

The campaign by this fiscal watchdog group will employ a combination of grassroots activism, online messaging, and various other forms of media outreach.

In recent times, PBMs have faced scrutiny from lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who feel compelled to address the increasing costs of prescription drugs and other medications. PBMs, such as CVS Caremark, act as intermediaries between pharmaceutical manufacturers and insurance companies to negotiate the costs of drugs for millions of Americans. However, little information about their practices or standards is available to the public. Consequently, Democrats, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, a proponent of public healthcare and chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, seek to impose more regulatory barriers on the work of PBMs.

On the other hand, conservative groups like CCAGW believe that restricting the work of PBMs would place an undue burden on millions of patients who rely on their services, as well as on U.S. taxpayers who would bear the cost of increased government involvement. CCAGW functions as the lobbying arm of the nonprofit organization Citizens Against Government Waste, and recent reports on charity transparency indicate that it has received funding from groups such as the Bradley Foundation, ExxonMobil, and Johnson & Johnson.

A 30-second ad, shared with Fox News Digital, shows the group urging voters to dissuade their GOP senators from supporting PBM reform by linking them directly to Sanders. The ad attempts to pin the push for PBM reform solely on Sen. Bernie Sanders, claiming, “Bernie Sanders is at it again, this time with a radical plan to increase government control of your pharmacy benefits. Even worse, some Republicans are supporting it.” The group specifically targets Alabama Republican Sen. Katie Britt in the ad, urging constituents to call her and ask her to oppose Bernie’s radical health care takeover.

Sanders’ proposed bill includes measures for price transparency regarding PBMs and seeks to ban tactics that artificially inflate drug prices. Supporters of PBMs argue that this would hinder their ability to negotiate the discounts they currently obtain. This legislation is part of a larger health package that the Senate is expected to address this month.

PBM reform enjoys bipartisan support. Hawley previously criticized PBMs earlier this year when introducing legislation to lower drug prices. In April, he stated, “Our prescription drug market is rigged in favor of Big Pharma and Big Insurance, and patients are paying the price. Americans foot the bill for the most costly prescription drug prices in the world—all while middlemen negotiate backroom deals to extract financial kickbacks that drive prices further up and prevent lower-cost alternatives.” Tuberville also expressed similar concerns in a May 2021 op-ed published in the Washington Times, where he questioned the claim made by PBMs that they benefit patients by negotiating lower prices from drug manufacturers.

Elizabeth Elkind is a politics reporter for Fox News Digital.

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