US Congress: "Under the Influence" of Big Pharma

"In all, at least 15 congressional staffers, congressmen and federal officials left to go to work for the pharmaceutical industry, whose profits were increased by several billion dollars. "I mean, they - they have unlimited resources. Unlimited," [Congressman] Burton says. "And when they push real hard to get something accomplished in the Congress of the United States, they can get it done." In January, one of the first things the new Democratic House of Representatives did was to make it mandatory for Medicare to negotiate lower prices with the drug companies. But a similar measure was blocked in the Senate, due in part to the efforts of the drug lobby." - Steve Kroft, "60 Minutes," CBS News , July 29, 2007

Barbara Loe Fisher Commentary:

This past Sunday, CBS's "60 Minutes" took on the pharmaceutical industry in a tough and well researched investigative report ("Under the Influence") on the strong-arm lobbying tactics of drug companies, who bully elected officials into passing legislation that guarantees drug companies higher profits. This report is an excellent example of what responsible journalists can do to inform the American people about how they are being exploited by big corporations and former "public servants" turned drug company lobbyists, who come back to Congress to twist the arms of their old colleagues. It was painful to watch this shocking report - congratulations to CBS for having the courage to produce and air it - and it is worth reading the transcript at and letting CBS know you care about seeing more investigative journalism like this.

The pharmaceutical industry is twisting arms at the state level, too, to secure guaranteed windfall profits for pharmaceutical products. The most recent example is the aggressive lobbying campaign by Merck to get its new HPV vaccine - GARDASIL - mandated in every state. They failed to do that this year because there was a big parent backlash based on product safety and parental rights concerns and state legislators heard the public's message loud and clear: no HPV vaccine mandates for 11 year old girls.

However, the drug company lobbyists are working hard to get GARDASIL mandated in California after all. To guarantee that the people never again have the opportunity to stop drug companies like Merck from guaranteeing that their new vaccines will be mandated, Pharma lobbyists have persuaded California Rep. Ed Hernandez and others to introduce a law (AB 16) that would cut the voters and the state legislature out of having any say whatsoever in future new vaccine mandates. Cleverly, what vaccine manufacturers want to do is get a law passed in every state that leaves only one person - the State Health Officer - with the power to mandate new vaccines whenever the CDC recommends a new vaccine for universal use.

It is much cheaper to strong arm one federal vaccine policymaking committee - the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices - and one state official in a state public health bureaucracy than to have to lobby hundreds of politicians in 50 state legislatures to convince them to mandate a new vaccine. Streamlining the U.S. vaccine mandating process would cut Pharma's lobbying costs so windfall profits from vaccine sales in the U.S. can be even larger - a projected $6.9B in 2007 - the highest for any country in the world. The power of the people would be totally removed from the vaccine mandating process and drug company lobbyists could concentrate all their efforts on strong-arming politicians in Congress to create more prescription drug profit-making schemes like the one CBS "60 Minutes" just highlighted.

The National Vaccine Information Center has been calling for reform of the mass vaccination system for 25 years. There have been too many instances in the past where former government health agency employees, who develop, regulate or promote mass use of multiple vaccines, have left their government jobs to work for vaccine manufacturers. The first step is to prohibit elected officials or staff or government health agency employees, who regulate or make recommendations for use of products sold by the pharmaceutical industry, from being employed by that industry for at least ten years following their government employment.

Government employees and elected officials responsible for ensuring the public health and safety should understand that when they join government, they are choosing to become public servants and that the corporate world is not accessible to them for at least a decade. This would prevent the revolving door that contributes to the kind of shameless exploitation of the people which CBS illustrated so well in their July 29 report "Under the Influence."

1 comment:

LW said...

Can you tell me where to get info on exemptions for my childern. I live in NY.

Do you know of anyone that has done this in NY?