Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Pharma Paid and Trump Delivered


How high are Pharma’s prices? Novartis wants $475,000 a patient for its new cancer therapy. Hep C drugs cost $95,000 for a course of treatment. The immune drug, Actimmune, costs $52,321.80 a month. The parasite drug Daraprim costs $45,000 a month. And the gallstone drug Chenodal costs $42,570 a month.

But this week in his long-awaited speech, Trump blamed foreign countries for high drug prices in the US and reversed his campaign pledge to use Medicare’s buying power to negotiate lower drug prices. Pharma stock prices rose; the shilling paid off.

Pharma has two lobbyists for every member of Congress. It spends more on lobbying than tobacco, oil and defense contractors combined. It parades patients before public and consumer panels to “provide media outlets a human face to attach to a cause when insurers balk at reimbursing patients for new prescription medications,” writes Melissa Healy of the Los Angeles Times.

And that is not enough for Pharma. Companies also try to incorporate in the UK, Ireland and other overseas locations to dodge the US taxes that fund them such as Medicare. They already manufacture and test drugs overseas because the labor is cheap.

The US government is captured. Pharma operatives head both Health and Human Services and the FDA. The CDC Foundation which receives millions from corporations (not that it affects policies or anything) lists as donors Abbott, AbbVie, Bayer, AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, Eli Lilly, Amgen, Genentech, Gilead and many more. (Is that why the CDC allows its name to be used in Gilead ads for its Hep C drug?)

Until 2010, PhRMA, Pharma’s top lobbying group, was headed by former Louisiana Rep. Billy Tauzin who resigned from Congress where he chaired the committee which oversees the drug industryonly to immediately reappear as the leader of PhRMA where he drew a $2 million salary. No conflict of interest there.

Tauzin had played a key role in shepherding the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill through Congress which prohibited government negotiation of lower drug prices and Canadian imports. “It’s a sad commentary on politics in Washington that a member of Congress who pushed through a major piece of legislation benefiting the drug industry, gets the job leading that industry,” Public Citizen’s President Joan Claybrook said.

Two-thirds of Pharma lobbyists previously worked for Congress or federal agencies reports the New York Times. An aide to former Michigan Rep. John D. Dingell now works for PhRMA, and an aide to former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, who was the chairman of the Senate health committee “is now a top lobbyist for Merck.” Gary Andres, former staff director of the House Energy and Commerce Committee now lobbies for biotech companies. And the list goes on.

Having captured Congress, you wouldn’t think Pharma would need a charm offensive. Yet it spends millions trying to convince the public it has our interests at heart as it raises our taxes and health care costs. Currently, “America’s Biopharmaceutical companies” are running their “Go Boldly” campaign, ennobling their work with the pay-off line “here’s to permission to fail.”

Yes, Pharma knows a lot about “permission to fail.” Over 20 of its drugshave been withdrawn from the market in recent years because they were so dangerous—-after maximum money was made of course. They include Vioxx, Bextra, Baycol, Trovan, Meridia, Seldane, Hismanal, Darvon, Raxar, Redux Mylotarg, Lotronex, Propulsid, phenylpropanolamine (PPA), Prexige, phenacetin, Oraflex, Omniflox, Posicor, Serzone and Duract.

Pharma also runs a sappy “Hope to Cures: The Value of Biopharmaceutical Innovation and New Drug Discovery” campaign that showcases patients whose lives were saved by expensive drugs. “If you object to our six-digit drug prices you are signing the death warrant for these patients,” the sleazy campaign seeks to convey.

Two lies lurk under the PR stunt. First, most of Pharma’s profits come from non life-savingdrugs that treat acid reflux, ADHD, poor eating habits and a host of  trumped up psychiatric illnesses. Secondly, research accounts for only one-fifth of Pharma’s drug costs. Most drug costs Pharma seeks to recoup are for marketing––the ask-your-doctor ads you see on TV––and, of course, lobbying.

More articles by:

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
George Payne
The Direction of No Return: a Meditation on America’s Descent into Tyranny
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgive
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
May 24, 2018
Gary Leupp
Art of the Dealbreaker: Trump’s Cancellation of the Summit with Kim
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail