The pharmaceutical industry enjoys a charmed existence in Capitol Hill, in large part because of its penchant for big money lobbying.
Last year, the pharmaceutical/health products category was #1 in terms of lobbying expenditures according to the website OpenSecrets.org; over $240 million was spent in 2015 alone (consequently the Biotechnology Industry Organization was also included in this total with over $8.3 million spent).
Exactly how much of an effect it has on our Congresspeople and laws passed isn’t categorically known, but it goes without saying that industries wouldn’t be throwing around that kind of money if it didn’t make a huge difference.
When it comes to new laws being passed, are pharmaceutical companies enjoying special treatment to the detriment of customers and our health?
According to one outspoken Congressman, a landmark new bill that was just passed by the House is a textbook example.
Warren: 21st Century Cures Act Amounts to “Extortion” By Pharmaceutical Industry
The 21st Century Cures Act is now headed to the Senate, and the gist of it is as follows according to the website Vox:
“The 21st Century Cures Act is a bipartisan effort that’s been in the works since April 2014. The idea behind the bill is that the Food and Drug Administration’s current approval process is clunky and out of date, delaying potentially lifesaving drugs and devices from reaching the patients who need them,” Julia Belluz writes. “The bill aims to modernize the process, accelerate drug and device innovation by boosting funding for research, and get cures onto the market faster.”
But even though this landmark bill just passed by an overwhelming 392-26 margin, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and others have warned that it may essentially be a giveaway for pharmaceutical giants (to varying degrees of fanfare; most still aren’t aware of what has become the biggest piece of healthcare legislation since the Affordable Care Act).
“It’s time for Congress to stand up to the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies, not give them more handouts,” Sanders said about the bill.
But while Sanders’ warnings have stood out, video footage of Warren’s rant against the bill has gained even more notoriety. She warns that the bill, which would ease standards for new drugs and medical devices, has been “hijacked” by the ultra-powerful pharmaceutical giants and could be dangerous to consumers.
“I cannot vote for this bill,’’ Warren said to a mostly empty chamber on the Senate floor. “I will fight it because I know the difference between compromise and extortion.”
Among the highlights of Warren’s speech:
-She believes that the bill will “legalize fraud” by drug companies by reducing the scientific standards needed to approve a drug
-She says the bill could “cover up bribery” by exempting medical companies from reporting some payments made to doctors
-She said the bill was rife with provisions that amount to “a bunch of special giveaways” for pharmaceutical companies
For more on Warren’s fiery speech on what she deems as serious problems with the bill, check out the full video
If you’d like to contact your Senator about the 21st Century Cures Act (it’s expected to be voted on in the Senate next week), you can also click on this link.