Opinion

Big Pharma’s Corporate Welfare Oxy-Con

Mytheos Holt Policy Analyst

Have you heard any sort of alarming medical statistic lately? You know, a tear-jerking fact about the number of people who suffer from disease X, or are pained by condition Y, and need desperately to have their suffering alleviated?

If so, congratulations, you have mostly likely had a brush with calculated messaging designed to both bilk you out of your tax dollars and drive up the rate of prescription drug addiction in America. And now, thanks to the efforts of some intrepid journalists at the Center for Public Integrity, we have an excellent picture of just how deceitful such campaigns can get.

CPI’s report, released September 19, looks specifically at a very disturbing issue: The fact that public policy responses to painkiller addiction have been largely controlled by drug company lobbyists looking to make a buck, rather than by people actually concerned with helping the sufferers. These lobbyists operate through the deceptively named Pain Care Forum, which may as well be called “the coalition for creating addicts.”

Indeed, the report notes that these very lobbyists were able to successfully insert pro-painkiller language into Obamacare itself: language written, shamefully, by a Republican on the receiving end of more than $300,000 in donations. What’s more, they have gone out of their way to stop genuinely conservative Republican legislation aimed at curbing addiction – even though, in the aftermath of Obamacare, those addictions will inevitably be financed with taxpayer dollars.

This bipartisan willingness to tolerate an industry that literally pushes a public health crisis for financial gain is one of many brilliant examples of why bipartisanship in Washington more or less translates to “everyone screwing the little guy.” And with Hillary Clinton receiving more money from Big Pharma – the architects of this con – than any candidate this cycle, one can be quite assured that under a President Clinton, this “let them eat cake” attitude both toward addicts and taxpayers would barrel right on.

It should be news to no one that pharma is willing to use the government to subject people to more pain and suffering, and lie about it, in the name of higher profits. Anyone familiar with the fact-free, pharma-driven push to undermine the Inter Parties Review process in patent law, which acts as a check on pharma continually charging monopoly prices for their drugs, will know how little facts or good governance matter to the industry.

Moreover, pharma has been chomping at the bit to hamstring longstanding Republican legislation that treats helping vulnerable people as a precondition for accessing vast pools of taxpayer dollars. I refer to the 340B drug pricing program, created under President George H.W. Bush, which requires pharmaceutical companies to sell their drugs cheaply to vulnerable care providers such as children’s hospitals in exchange for access to Medicaid and Medicare Part B money. Pharma, desperate to hike the price on cancer drugs, hates the program and wants to see it destroyed so they can have sick peoples’ tax dollars and gouge them, too. And let’s not forget its willingness to game the system in exchange for just a few more years of charging exorbitant sums.

With a record like this, it’s no surprise that pharma would also create an entire lobby to push painkiller addiction in Washington, or that it cloaks its poison-pushing under the mask of concern for suffering people. But now that the cat’s out of the bag, hopefully this Congress, or one under a new president, will finally take efforts to kill this corrupt pain in the American peoples’ side.