Campaign Cash Pours in One Day After Trump Lashes Out at Pharma

Published: Sep 29, 2017

Campaign Cash Pours in One Day After Trump Lashes Out at Pharma September 28, 2017
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

WASHINGTON – On numerous occasions, President Donald Trump has decried the costs of many prescription medications. At a rally in March shortly after Trump took office, he said the “cost of medicine in this country is outrageous” and pointed to cheaper drug prices in many European countries.

Same pill, same manufacturer, identical and it’s many times higher in the United States,” Trump said at the Rally, according to a report in Endpoints News.

He then went on to say that the reason drug prices in the United States are so high is due to campaign contributions made by pharmaceutical companies to powerful political interests.

The next day political donations from the pharma industry spiked, Kaiser Health News reported Thursday. That day of political donations was higher than any other day in 2017, KHN said. In total $279,000 was provided to Republican and Democratic lawmakers from eight pharmaceutical political action committees. Those PACs made 134 total contributions on March 21, 2017, KHN reported, citing filings with the Federal Election Commission.

The top PAC to shell out cash belonged to Merck . On March 21, it donated $148,000 to 60 different candidates, including $15,000 to PACs supporting House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, received $7,500, KHN said. Carper sits on the Senate Finance Committee.

In addition to Merck’s PAC, political action committees belonging to Pfizer and Novo Nordisk donated $76,900 and $38,500 respectively to multiple candidates, according to the report.

While some of the PACS said the timing of the large amount of campaign cash being donated was coincidental to the President’s tough talk on drug prices, there are some who saw it as an attempt by the companies to “curry favor” with lawmakers. Brendan Fischer, head of election reform programs at the Campaign Legal Center told KHN it was “entirely possible” the pharma PACS wrote checks to “head off any sort of potential attack on their industry by the press or by the federal government.”

Along those lines, Kaiser did note that during that March 20 rally Trump promised to lower prescription drug prices, which caused pharmaceutical stocks to dramatically decline the next day. Biotech stock indices fell between 1.8 percent and 3.5 percent following his comments.

On multiple occasions, Trump has been critical of prescription prices and pharma lobbying power. He has pointed to lobbying interests for high drug prices, particularly those paid for by Medicare. Trump has called for a stronger bidding process for drugs acquired by the federal government.

That rally wasn’t Trump’s first time criticizing the price of prescription medication. Earlier this year, Trump met with pharma executives and criticized the price of drugs. Trump called drug prices astronomical and said prices have to come down. Trump said U.S. drug companies have produced “extraordinary results” for the country, but said the price of many of the drugs are detrimental to the people. The meeting was held following Trump’s pre-inauguration comments that the pharmaceutical industry was “getting away with murder” when it comes to the prices the companies charge for medication.

Campaign contributions aren’t the only way the pharma industry has looked to defend its reputation. In January, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) launched its “Go Boldly” advertising campaign highlighting scientific advancements by the pharmaceutical industry. PhRMA, an advocacy and lobbying group, said it will spend “tens of millions” of dollars on the advertising campaign.

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