Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Betting the Pharm - Rx Industry Is Congress's Number One Little Helper

this is an audio post - click to play

As Jim Drinkard reports in USA Today, the pharmaceutical industry has got what Congress needs: money, and plenty of it.

The Phacts:
-from 1998-2004, pharmaceutical companies spent $758 million on lobbying, $158 million in 2004 alone.
-Pharm employed 1,274 lobbyists in D.C. alone - more than two for every member of Congress - including 40 former members of Congress.
-Pharm gave $17 million to federal candidates in 2004, and kicked in an additional $7.3 million for the parties' conventions.
- Two companies, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, spent a combined $45 million on advertising in support of the 2004 Medicare prescription drug coverage, which passed without allowing the government the ability to negotiate for cheaper prices.

No doubt about it - this Pharm is phat.

And that doesn't even cover all the organizations Pharm phunds to tout its message, nor ads by the other 32 pharmaceutical companies that belong to the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America. According to an editorial in today's Los Angeles Times, Pharm spent $4.1 billion hawking drugs to U.S. consumers in 2004, drugs that will cost U.S. taxpayers $800 billion when the drug benefit kicks in next year.

Normally, we here at TheRestofUs focus less on what big contributors get in return for their hefty campaign contributions, and more on how regular folks get locked out of the political process by campaign finance rules skewed to advantage the wealthy. In this case, both problems are painfully present.

When the prescription drug benefit kicks in, Congress will start paying 41% of Americans' total drug costs, up from 24% now. Pharm has spent a lot of money on elected officials to make sure that their best customer doesn't lose its appetite for products, pills, or payments. All with the help of their phavorite addict - the phederal government.

It's high time that the rest of us help our elected officials kick their habit.

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