Tuesday, May 8, 2007

For Big Pharma, Business as Usual

In "How Many “Free Trade” Senators Can PhRMA Turn Into Corporate Protectionists?", David Sirota kvetches:
How many self-described “free” trade lawmakers in Congress can the drug industry make head to the floor of the Senate and bare their corporate protectionist corruption for all to see? Based on a key vote yesterday, the answer appears to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 49 (including 14 Democrats) - well over what’s necessary to control the federal government.

That’s right, as the Associated Press reports, “In a triumph for the pharmaceutical industry, the Senate killed a drive to allow consumers to buy prescription drugs from abroad at a significant savings from domestic prices.” The legislation to allow imports of FDA-approved medicines from other industrialized nations (a practice used by other industrialized nations themselves) was sponsored by North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) and has long been supported by the vast majority of the American public in opinion polls. Yet right there on the floor of the U.S. Senate yesterday afternoon, 49 senators voted through a poison pill amendment, invalidating Dorgan’s legislation and protecting drug industry profiteering. The sheer disregard for the truth and for consistency when it came to both the policy and politics of this vote was, in a word, stunning.
Why would our congressmen and senators vote for a plan like this? Because Big Pharma promoted it under the radar with "stealth PACs", and rewarded supporters by paying for campaign commercials.

You may have also seen the commercials claiming that seniors are doing better and seeing 'real savings' under the current Medicaid structure. Those commercials are sponsored by PhRMA, a major funder of the stealth PACs.

What they don't tell you is that the most inexpensive plan puts a strict cap on how much Medicaid will pay for medicine each year. Naturally, the people who take the plan are the ones with the lowest incomes, and thus are the least able to pay if they have real health problems. Since lower income people are less able to afford good health care, their conditions tend to worsen more quickly, yada yada yada.

At least one friend's family hit this ceiling in about March or April last year, and the rest of the cost went on their credit cards. Credit cards charge interest, so... let's just say that those 'real savings' get swallowed up quickly by interest charges.

What can you do? Find your senators, and learn how they voted. Then, most importantly, do something about it. Contact them to offer thanks or criticism, phone their offices, and write letters to your newspaper. Tell your friends. Finally, work for their re-election or defeat. Your personal time and effort is worth more than ten commercials.

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