While our focus here at DeSmogBlog is to expose the public relations and lobbying antics that hinder effective responses to climate change, we are always on the lookout for other examples of how lobbying and PR impede progress on critical legislative efforts to protect people instead of profits.
The health care reform bill in front of the U.S. Congress provides several noteworthy examples, perhaps none so appalling as that described in a front-page New York Times article this week about the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to script the floor speeches delivered by members of the House of Representatives.
The article, “In House, Many Spoke With One Voice: Lobbyists’”, describes how lobbyists working on behalf of Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies, succeeded in having their ghostwritten talking points repeated, often verbatim, by over 40 lawmakers on the House floor - 22 Republicans and 20 Democrats.
Genentech also succeeded in getting many of its willing spokespeople in Congress to mention the issue of generic drugs, a critical item on the industry’s lobbying agenda in the health care reform debate. Genentech no doubt hoped to drum up additional support for an amendment put forth by Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA), in whose district Genentech is located. Rep. Eshoo’s provision would have granted pharmaceutical companies up to 12 years of monopoly advantage – and perhaps longer – to sell their profitable cancer, diabetes and AIDS drugs without competition from cheaper generic forms.
Taxpayers have already paid for the development of many of these drugs, yet reports of sick Americans losing their houses or going bankrupt due to overwhelming drug costs are seemingly everywhere in the news these days.
Undeterred by such heart-wrenching tales of woe, the pharmaceutical industry is moving in the opposite direction, raising prices on life-saving medicines at frantic rates in anticipation that health care reform measures will limit their profits at some future point.
And the industry has deployed its lobbyist army to weaken the legislative effort to make these life-saving drugs more affordable for the public through the development of cheaper generic versions. Arguing passionately against allowing generics onto the market, the industry actually wants Congress to grant patent extensions on their highly-profitable (taxpayer-funded) biologic drugs.
Never mind that this lobbying effort is designed to continue the pattern of bankruptcy and lost years of life for breast cancer, AIDS and rheumatoid arthritis patients. To hell with the victims, this industry wants to ensure endless profit streams.
Big Pharma, just like the climate denial industry, is willing to sell future generations down the river in exchange for a few more years of blockbuster profits for entrenched corporate powers. (While the climate denial machine’s victims are mostly the unborn generations who will experience the worst effects of global warming, the pharmaceutical industry’s victims have names and faces today.)
Such grotesque lobbying tactics, coupled with huge cash outlays from industry to elected officials, are designed to protect short-term profits at the expense of human health and the planet.
Is this really the best we can do for our children and grandchildren?
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