The New York Times and Washington Post reported on the pharmaceutical industry’s fears of a Democratic-controlled Congress. Those fears were best captured in a secret internal memo from drug maker GlaxoSmithKline. According to The Post:
“We now have fewer allies in the Senate,” says the internal memo, obtained by The Washington Post. “Thus, there is greater risk over the next two years that bad amendments will be offered to pending legislation.” The company’s primary concerns are bills that would allow more imported drugs and would force price competition for drugs bought under Medicare.
The defeat of Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) “creates a big hole we will need to fill,” the e-mail says. Sen.-elect Jon Tester (D-Mont.) “is expected to be a problem,” it says, and the elevation to the Senate of Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) “will strengthen his ability to challenge us.”
The e-mail also mentions that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) “has worked closely” with the company and that the firm’s PAC had supported six Democratic senators who faced reelection. “These relationships should help us moderate proposals offered by Senate Democrats,” the e-mail says.
In response to this perceived assualt, the drug industry trade groups, PhRMA and BIO, have already created their battle plan says the Times:
Hoping to prevent Congress from letting the government negotiate lower drug prices for millions of older Americans on Medicare, the pharmaceutical companies have been recruiting Democratic lobbyists, lining up allies in the Bush administration and Congress, and renewing ties with organizations of patients who depend on brand-name drugs.
Many drug company lobbyists concede that the House is likely to pass a bill intended to drive down drug prices, but they are determined to block such legislation in the Senate. If that strategy fails, they are counting on President Bush to veto any bill that passes. With 49 Republicans in the Senate next year, the industry is confident that it can round up the 34 votes normally needed to uphold a veto.
. . .
Drug makers have not set a budget for their campaign. They and their trade groups already spend some $100 million a year on lobbying in Washington.
A big part of the plan involves hiring Democratic lobbyists. As the Times reports:
Amgen, the biotechnology company, recently disclosed that it had retained as a lobbyist George C. Crawford, a former chief of staff for Representative Nancy Pelosi of California. Ms. Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, is in line to become speaker in January and has said that the House will immediately take up legislation authorizing Medicare to negotiate prices with drug manufacturers.
. . .
Other major drug companies have been snatching up Democratic former-aides-turned-lobbyists. Merck recently has hired Peter Rubin, a former aide to Representative Jim McDermott of Washington, one of the more liberal House Democrats. Cephalon has hired Kim Zimmerman, a health policy aide to Senator Ben Nelson, a conservative Democrat of Nebraska.
The Biotechnology Industry Organization has retained Paul T. Kim, a former aide to two influential Democrats, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Representative Henry A. Waxman of California.
A Medicare expert who works for House Democrats said he recently received three job offers in one day from the drug industry, by telephone and in person.
You know PhRMA will try all its tricks on the new Congress. So it’s more important now than ever before for you to tell Congress to stand-up for consumers and not drug company interests.