‘Sold Out’: Congressional Candidates Call Out Politicians For Taking Big Pharma Cash


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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Congressional candidates are targeting lawmakers who received massive donations from drug companies while backing legislation that makes it more difficult for government agencies to tackle the opioid crisis.

A handful of political candidates are crusading against many of the politicians who backed legislation defanging the government’s ability to stanch the flow of unchecked opioids. They are turning the issues into a referendum against lawmakers who were bankrolled by pharmaceutical companies.

Jason Crow, a Democrat and U.S. Army combat veteran, for one, is planning on using the issue against Republican Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, who accepted $44,000 in donations from drug distributors and pharmacy companies.

“I’m a parent, and I’m raising kids in a community and country that is awash in drugs,” Crow told The Washington Post Monday. “If that doesn’t keep every parent up at night, then I don’t know what does. I’m done with that, and I’m not putting up with it anymore, and that’s what this election is about.”

Coffman co-sponsored an earlier version of the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, but he did not support a later version because important drug screen provisions had been removed. Drug distributors pushed the bill to counter aggressive DEA enforcement actions against the widespread, unchecked, distribution of drugs like OxyContin.

“Mike Coffman has been a pitbull targeting the pharmaceutical industry and overmedication of our veterans, and no serious person in Colorado would believe that he’s anything but an independent and tenacious advocate for what’s right,” spokesman Daniel Bucheli said in a statement to WaPo.

He’s not the only candidate teeing off against Republicans and Democrats who supported legislation favoring the industry. Democratic candidate Judy Herschel launched a full-time congressional campaign against Republican Rep. Tom Marino of Pennsylvania, who she believes spearheaded legislation hampering the Drug Enforcement Administration’s enforcement efforts against the industry.

“It’s a big reason why I chose to run,” she said in April during a stump speech in a neighborhood not far from Williamsport, a city reeling from an inundation of pain pills and heroin. Marino’s Republican challenger in Tuesday’s primary Doug McLinko, a county commissioner, suggested Marino “sold out his office to the drug companies.”

Twenty-six lawmakers sponsored or co-sponsored versions of the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act in the House and the Senate, 23 of them Republicans, three of them Democrats. Several of the lawmakers are retiring, but 12 Republicans and all three Democrats are running for reelection or seeking higher office.

The agency targeted the industry for failing to report suspicious orders of opioids. The market was effectively owned by two massive pharmaceutical firms.

The Sackler family and Purdue Pharma, which is widely blamed for playing an essential role in starting the epidemic, have given more than $1.3 million to U.S. candidates and another $1 million to political organizations since OxyContin’s creation, according to Center for Responsive Politics data, but that’s just the surface of how deep the pharmaceutical titans’ influence runs. (RELATED: American Cartel: Billionaire Family Behind OxyContin Apparently Spends ZILCH Rehabbing Addicts)

Prescription opioid overdoses killed more than 200,000 Americans between 1999 and 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Addicts in many cases became dependent on the drugs after doctors gave them prescriptions for legitimate purposes. Nearly 80 percent of heroin abusers first used prescription opioids, according to a recent report.

WaPo also found that several lawmakers held stock in the companies backing legislation favorable to the pharmaceutical industry. Republican Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin, who is also a co-sponsor of the legislation, held nearly $1 million worth of stock in AbbVie, which manufactures Vicodin, a widely abused narcotic painkiller. (RELATED: American Cartel: Here Are The Politicians That Took Opioid Tycoons’ ‘Dirty, Bloody Money’)

Republican Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis of Florida is another co-sponsor. He held between $4,000 and $60,000 in Rite Aid stock, according to the company’s financial disclosures, and accepted $77,500 from drug distribution and pharmacy companies.

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