The "Patriotism" Of Drug Corporations

Even by Wall Street's corrupt standards, the lobbying assault that the big drug corporations launched shortly after September 11 is hamfisted, selfish, and sleazy.

The New York Times reports that the pharmaceutical barons are the most powerful lobby in Washington. They spend about $200 million a year on lobbyists and campaign contributions -- more than any other industry. They have 134 lobbying firms on their payroll, which gives them -- get this -- 625 registered lobbyists to push their agenda. That's 90 more lobbyists than there are members of congress!

Within hours of September's crashbombings, this army was deployed in D.C., going corridor to corridor, agency to agency, and all the way to the top, to Bush himself. In a coordinated campaign, they used our nation's fight against terrorism and the public scare about anthrax as covers to win a list of legislative stinkers for their industry that they had long wanted, but couldn't get congress to swallow. But, now, they wrapped those stinkers in our American flag and patriotically declared, as the CEO of Bristol-Myers Squibb put it: "We are part of the nation's defense system."

Some patriot. Bristol-Myers' contribution to national defense was to demand a three-year extension on the patent for its diabetes drug, Glucophage. This meant that diabetes patients would not be able to get a cheaper generic version for another three years, and Bristol-Myers would pocket on extra $6 billion.

Among the other stinkers that the lobbyists pushed in the name of national security was a waiver from certain FDA rules for drugs that could be marketed to combat bioterrorism. Which rules? Bush officials said they might waive the testing and safety requirements on these drugs, as well as waiving the responsibility of drug makers to notify authorities of serious illnesses and injuries caused by their products.

This is Jim Hightower saying ... This is nothing but shameless war profiteering, and it undermines national security.


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