FROM INDIANA STATE AFL-CIO - Corporate Money Keeping Prescription Drug Plan Off Political Table


Submitted by Frank Slider

Last June President George W. Bush singled out a fellow American for his thanks in front of a crowd of 6,500. He didn't thank him for his service to the country's war on terrorism, or for some sort of important scientific discovery, or for being a great teacher and example for young people.

No, the occasion was a GOP fundraiser, and President George W. Bush thanked Robert A. Ingram, president of pharmaceutical operations at GlaxoSmithKline, for his fundraising prowess. Ingram was chairman of the dinner that brought in more than $30 million for the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to the National Journal.

GlaxoSmithKline markets a drug called Lanoxin, widely used by the nation's seniors to treat congestive heart failure. The price of Lanoxin has risen 58.1 percent since 1997, according to a report by Families USA-nearly five times the rate of inflation. GlaxoSmithKline, along with the rest of the pharmaceutical drug industry, fiercely opposes Congressional proposals to add comprehensive prescription drug coverage to the Medicare program.

Already, the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry has contributed $11.3 million to federal candidates and parties toward this year's mid-term elections, three-fourths of that to the GOP, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In the 2000 election cycle, the industry gave $19.3 million, 77 percent to Republicans, of which the Bush-Cheney campaign received $289,500. The pharmaceutical and health products industry also threw in $950,000 for the Bush-Cheney Inaugural Fund. Not surprisingly, the picture is not encouraging for Americans who need affordable drugs. Republicans in Washington, D.C. are looking out for their corporate backers.

The Bush Administration announced that it will not implement a provision passed by the Senate-by a 69 to 30 vote-that would allow U.S. pharmacies and wholesalers to re-import prescription drugs from Canada, where costs are lower. Interestingly, the sponsor of that amendment, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), has gotten just $11,000 from pharmaceutical manufacturers over the years, while the 30 Senators who voted against the amendment have collected an average of $88,430.

Another plan by Senate Democrats, fiercely opposed by the pharmaceutical industry, was defeated by a vote of 52 to 47 (60 votes were needed for the legislation to move forward). The bill would have created a new government prescription drug benefit for Medicare beneficiaries, at the cost of $594 billion over several years.

The Bush Administration and most Republicans continue to promote a private plan run by the same corporate interests who fund their campaigns. They're comfortable letting the foxes guard the henhouse.

But with corporate scandals surfacing almost daily, and drug prices increasing faster than any other industry, the American people should strongly question if they want corporate America to be responsible for the health of their mothers, fathers, grandparents, and children.

You might also ask why it is that the President singles out pharmaceutical CEOs for his personal thanks, while you see your own pocketbook dwindle from paying for the prescriptions drugs you and your family need.

Maybe its because his Mom and Dad, and his wife and children are already covered by a prescription drug plan. One funded by the Federal Government!

Hur Herald from Sunny Cal
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