AHA, CVS Health backed secretive anti-pharma group

A dark money group that has spent over $1 million on advertisements criticizing drugmakers was created by executives from both the American Hospital Association and CVS Health, according to tax filings obtained by STAT.

The group is known as Citizens for Truth in Drug Pricing and has paid well-known radio hosts to post Facebook ads urging people to sign a petition to stop drug companies from overcharging for their drugs and telling lawmakers they risk being reelected in 2020 if they don't support drug pricing reforms.

The first paid advertisement reportedly ran on Oct. 25, the day the Trump administration said it wants to allow a cap on U.S. drug payments based on an index of prices in other developed countries.

The group has previously declined to say who its leaders are and where it gets its funding, but Kevin Sheridan, founder of Sheridan Media and a Republican spokesman who worked on Mitt Romney's campaign, reportedly provided STAT with the group's 2018 tax returns.

Tom Nickels, the AHA executive vice president for government relations, is listed as the group's president. David Bockorny, a major Republican donor and lobbyist contracted by both the AHA and CVS Health is listed as the secretary. Bradley Tusk, a venture capitalist and former strategist for Uber, is listed as the group's treasurer.

The group also has a web of connections to veteran Republican operatives, including many with ties to President Donald Trump, according to STAT.

Citizens for Truth in Drug Pricing received $2.5 million in funding in 2018, but it is unclear if AHA and CVS Health provided all of that funding and whether or not they are both still involved in the group.

"While we have no official role with Citizens for Truth in Drug Pricing, we’ve provided funding to help counter the hundreds of millions of dollars the pharmaceutical industry has spent running a misinformation campaign on the root cause of skyrocketing drug prices," T.J. Crawford, a CVS Health spokesman, told STAT in a statement.

The group's spending in 2018 totaled roughly $1.4 million, over $1 million of which was paid to Rigel Strategies, a marketing firm based in Plano, Texas.

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