Photo: Associated Press

Hillary Clinton has created two health care punching bags that she hopes will rally popular support behind her quest for the White House.

Clinton chose this week to launch into a formal offensive against Republicans who  have opposed health care reform, and big pharma, which she blames for running up  the cost of prescription drugs just as the nation was beginning to better control  runaway health insurance price increases.

The first bag to hit back was big pharma. In a statement following a preview of Clinton’s plan to rein in prescription drug costs, an industry group lashed out at Clinton, accusing her of threatening patient health for political purposes.

“”Researchers and scientists across the biopharmaceutical industry have dedicated their lives to the search for new treatments and cures for patients. … This persistence and dedication to patients has resulted in tremendous advances against some of life’s biggest enemies, including cancer, hepatitis c, heart disease and other terrible diseases. Secretary Clinton’s proposal would turn back the clock on medical innovation and halt progress against the diseases that patients fear most,” John Castellani, CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said in a statement.

Clinton told audiences in Louisiana and Arkansas on Monday that her plan to force manufacturers to reveal their internal costs could save $100 billion over a decade. Castellani said her plan focused on a few breakthrough drugs instead of the overall industry, where competition has made most drugs easily affordable.

“These proposals are driven by the false notion that spending on medicines is fueling overall health care cost growth and ignores how the current marketplace for medicines helps keep spending in check. In reality, the share of health care spending attributable to medicines is projected to continue to grow in line with overall health care cost growth for at least the next decade. This is because competition and negotiation by payers result in steep discounts in medicine prices, and as a result of the current patent system 90 percent of medicines used are low-cost generic copies,” he said.

Her solution would “erode the U.S. leadership in biomedical innovation, spur loss of high-tech STEM jobs and undermine U.S. competitiveness” and would actually lead to higher drug costs for seniors. The chilling effect on R&D would be substantial over time, he added.

“It may not be known for decades the full consequences of policies that shift time, resources and energy away from searching for cures for the most challenging and complex diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and the most difficult forms of cancer. And yet the stakes could not be higher for the patients who are waiting for new medicines that can improve their lives and offer them more time with loved ones” he said.