In 2019, the pharmaceutical industry spent $295 million on lobbying, far more than any other sector in the U.S.
[Editor’s Note: Keep in mind while American citizens pay the highest medication prices in the world, much of Big Pharma profits derive from taxpayer-funded research at universities and national labs. We pay for the research and the corporations price gouge the sick and disabled and hand out huge bonuses to their executives. It’s as perverted, pernicious and sick form of American capitalism as you can find. — Mark L. Taylor]
By Sharon Lerner
The Intercept (3/13/20)
AS THE NEW CORONAVIRUS spreads illness, death, and catastrophe around the world, virtually no economic sector has been spared from harm. Yet amid the mayhem from the global pandemic, one industry is not only surviving, it is profiting handsomely.
“Pharmaceutical companies view Covid-19 as a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity,” said Gerald Posner, author of “Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America.” The world needs pharmaceutical products, of course. For the new coronavirus outbreak, in particular, we need treatments and vaccines and, in the U.S., tests. Dozens of companies are now vying to make them.
“They’re all in that race,” said Posner, who described the potential payoffs for winning the race as huge. The global crisis “will potentially be a blockbuster for the industry in terms of sales and profits,” he said, adding that “the worse the pandemic gets, the higher their eventual profit.”
The industry also spends lavishly on campaign contributions to both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. Throughout the Democratic primary, Joe Biden has led the pack among recipients of contributions from the health care and pharmaceutical industries.
The ability to make money off of pharmaceuticals is already uniquely large in the U.S., which lacks the basic price controls other countries have, giving drug companies more freedom over setting prices for their products than anywhere else in the world. During the current crisis, pharmaceutical makers may have even more leeway than usual because of language industry lobbyists inserted into an $8.3 billion coronavirus spending package, passed last week, to maximize their profits from the pandemic.
Protecting profits over people
Initially, some lawmakers had tried to ensure that the federal government would limit how much pharmaceutical companies could reap from vaccines and treatments for the new coronavirus that they developed with the use of public funding. In February, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and other House members wrote to Trump pleading that he “ensure that any vaccine or treatment developed with U.S. taxpayer dollars be accessible, available and affordable,” a goal they said couldn’t be met “if pharmaceutical corporations are given authority to set prices and determine distribution, putting profit-making interests ahead of health priorities.”
When the coronavirus funding was being negotiated, Schakowsky tried again, writing to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on March 2 that it would be “unacceptable if the rights to produce and market that vaccine were subsequently handed over to a pharmaceutical manufacturer through an exclusive license with no conditions on pricing or access, allowing the company to charge whatever it would like and essentially selling the vaccine back to the public who paid for its development.”
But many Republicans opposed adding language to the bill that would restrict the industry’s ability to profit, arguing that it would stifle research and innovation. And although Azar, who served as the top lobbyist and head of U.S. operations for the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly before joining the Trump administration, assured Schakowsky that he shared her concerns, the bill went on to enshrine drug companies’ ability to set potentially exorbitant prices for vaccines and drugs they develop with taxpayer dollars.
The final aid package not only omitted language that would have limited drug makers’ intellectual property rights, it also left out language that had been in an earlier draft that would have allowed the federal government to take any action if it has concerns that the treatments or vaccines developed with public funds are priced too high. …
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )
Gov. Coumo: “It’s Making Sure We Make It Through This.”
“Think of one another.”
[Editor’s Note: This is what a real leader in the midst of crisis sounds like. — Mark L. Taylor]
The Daily / The New York Times (3/18/20)
New York was one of the earliest states with confirmed cases of coronavirus, and it now has the most confirmed infections in the U.S. To control the outbreak, the authorities have begun taking increasingly drastic steps, including closing schools and businesses. Today, we talk with the governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, to hear about how he is handling the crisis.