By a huge percentage, the US per capita health care costs are the highest in the world. When we finally got a little relief under the Affordable Health Care act, the compromise was that the government was PROHIBITED from negotiating costs with health care providers and big pharma. Why? The top twenty pharmaceutical companies and their two trade groups, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and Biotechnology Industry Organization, lobbied on at least 1,600 pieces of legislation between 1998 and 2004. According to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, pharmaceutical companies spent $900 million on lobbying between 1998 and 2005, more than any other industry. During the same period, they donated $89.9 million to federal candidates and political parties, giving approximately three times as much to Republicans as to Democrats. According to the Center for Public Integrity, from January 2005 through June 2006 alone, the pharmaceutical industry spent approximately $182 million on Federal lobbying. The industry has 1,274 registered lobbyists in Washington D.C.
It is estimated that a record $120 million was spent lobbying for health reform. In addition to direct lobbying, some of the top firms also rewarded members of Congress with campaign contributions through political action committees and individual lobbyist donations. The largest of these firms, Patton Boggs LLP, contributed more than $55,000,000, almost exclusively to Democrats.
For anyone still under the impression that the major pharmaceutical companies only have our best interests at heart, they should read this eye-opening admission from this Big Pharma CEO. In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers said that his company’s new cancer drug, Nexavar, isn’t “for Indians,” but “for western patients who can afford it.”
The drug, which is particularly effective on late-stage kidney and liver cancer, costs approximately $69,000 per year in India, so in March 2012 an Indian court granted a license to an Indian company to produce the drug at a 97 percent discount.
Bayer sued Natco Pharma Ltd., but in March of last year, the High Court in Mumbai denied its appeal. Bayer CEO called the compulsory license issued by the Indian court “essentially theft,” then said “we did not develop this medicine for Indians…we developed it for western patients who can afford it.”
Nexavar costs approximately $96,000 per year in the United States, but Bayer assures “western patients” that they can have access to the drug for a $100 copay.
In an e-mail to Bloomberg Businessweek, Bristol-Meyers Squibb said that it is “deeply concerned with the deteriorating protections for patented innovative medicines in India.” The court cases that could ensue could tie up the Indian legal system in a manner that makes it impossible for doctors in the country to acquire any version of the drugs at any cost. This is how arrogant big pharma has become that they will blatantly threaten us all. Play the game or we will withhold life saving drugs!
The question is; are we going to continue to allow the dialogue to center on extortion or are we going to demand we begin to have the correct discussion. Is healthcare a business or is healthcare a right that should be available to all people. We can regulate utility costs because we believe affordable access to heat and light are essential needs. Is not healthcare even a more essential need?
It is time that we demand healthcare cost regulations. It is time to end this corruption of our crony congress and demand controls be put in place. It is not just a matter of access to affordable care, it is also the biggest impact on our governmental spending. Yet we remain silent on this issue. We cannot think of a single issue that more dramatically affects us all. We need to insist of our representatives that in this session of congress meaningful cost controls legislation be introduced and passed. We can disagree on a number of issues, but concerning this singular issue there should be absolute unity. If we cannot rally around the issue of our health and access to affordable care, what can we unite on?