Thursday, August 6, 2009

Learning About Big Pharma Deal Makes Me Want To Eat Vicodin

The New York Times is reporting today that the White House and Congress have promised not to attempt to extract further cost-saving measures for consumers from large drug makers. Progressives have long feared that the Obama administration would go along with this back-room deal, and now it appears that they are. From the Times:

"Pressed by industry lobbyists, White House officials on Wednesday assured drug makers that the administration stood by a behind-the-scenes deal to block any Congressional effort to extract cost savings from them beyond an agreed-upon $80 billion.

Drug industry lobbyists reacted with alarm this week to a House health care overhaul measure that would allow the government to negotiate drug prices and demand additional rebates from drug manufacturers.

In response, the industry successfully demanded that the White House explicitly acknowledge for the first time that it had committed to protect drug makers from bearing further costs in the overhaul."[emphasis mine.]

The article goes on to say that Billy Tauzin, former Republican congress-person and current CEO of PhRMA, a pharmaceutical lobbying group, was promised that the administration wanted this deal with drug makers to go forward. Back to the Times:

A deputy White House chief of staff, Jim Messina, confirmed Mr. Tauzin’s account of the deal in an e-mail message on Wednesday night.

“The president encouraged this approach,” Mr. Messina wrote.

Sigh. By blocking the government from being able to collectively bargain for drug prices, this deal guarantees that prices will continue to rise. Only the government's massive collective purchasing power--since we're talking drugs, think about buying 100 million pounds of weed; you'll get a discount--will be able to bring soaring costs down. Now, it looks like lobbyists have flexed their muscle to stop that from happening.

Scarecrow, over at FireDogLake, has an excellent analysis that can be read here. Scarecrow writes, in part:

"The White House has been telling the American people that we need to have an insurance Public Option to compete against the private, for-profit insurers to encourage price reductions and to keep the insurers honest. But the same arguments apply with at least equal force to the major drug companies, whose record of deceptive advertising, misrepresentation (here and here), corruption and price collusion (more here, here, and here, and here) are every bit as offensive as the mega insurers' practices.

The Times notes the deal was negotiated by Senator Max Baucus, with WH participation and approval. The LA Times version adds the deal was cut in the White House with Rahm Emanuel. So what should we expect from the WH/Baucus' negotiations with Republicans on the rest of the reform package?"

I highly suggest reading the whole article, and following the links that are embedded in the above passage. Even skimming where those links take you will more than prove Scarecrow's point that drug manufactures are "every bit as offensive as the mega insurers' practices."

In somewhat related news, an animal rights group calling itself Militant Forces Against Huntigdon has claimed responsibility for a fire that burned the hunting lodge of Novartis' CEO, Daniel Vassella. European News reports:

"A group called Militant Forces against Huntigdon (MFAH) Austria posted a message on a US website, claiming it started the blaze because of Novartis' alleged cooperation a with British company conducting tests on animals.

'It hasn't been your week has it, Daniel?,' MFAH wrote on the site, 'This will continue until you severe all ties with Huntingdon Life Sciences.'

Novartis does not make its cooperation partners public."

Huntigdon Life Science calls itself a research facility, and has been accused of carrying out cruel and unnecessary experiments against animals.

Authorities previously suspected the group Stop Huntigdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) was behind the attack.

MFAH's claim that, "It hasn't been your week," refers to a separate incident that happened last week when animal rights activists stole an urn filled with the ashes of Vassella's mother, who died in 2001, and sprayed "Drop HLS [Huntigdon Life Sciences] Now," on her gravestone. Novartis claims that they don't have any current connection with HLS, despite claims to the contrary by many animal rights groups. Novartis doesn't disclose their partners to the public, though one would certainly expect them to deny any connection with HLS.

These are the people, along with Billy Tauzin and his revolting lobbying ilk, that the Democrats are cowtowing to. Every day, it looks less and less likely that the final health care bill will contain a robust public option that exists to serve the citizens, not the private interests. We won't know at least until September what the bill will look like, but news like today's is not a cause for optimism.

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