When Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier resigned from the president’s American Manufacturing Council, Trump’s “tweeter-Tourette’s syndrome” rant for once hit on a real problem: U.S. drug prices are egregiously high compared to other developed countries.
But he also got it wrong in blaming Merck and, ostensibly, the pharmaceutical industry for “rip off” prices. While big pharma is reaping rewards, the fault lies with our lawmakers.
First, are we really getting ripped off? A 2015 analysis of top-selling drugs by Bloomberg News found that, even after factoring in huge discounts given pharmacies and insurance companies, U.S. prices are much, much higher than in other developed countries. Credible study after credible study have concluded this.
So we are being ripped off. But why? Because of the special benefits and protections afforded big pharma by our federal government. But, again, why? Because our congressional representatives have sold out.
During the 2015-16 election cycle, congressional incumbents and candidates received more than $27,976,522 in contributions from the pharmaceuticals/health products industry. The average on the House side was $39,828 — $74,566 for senators and Senate candidates. Both chambers, both parties. For example, Toomey got $295,026; Casey $167,650; and Thompson, apparently very far down the trough, $14,000. These figures were released by the Federal Election Commission and reported by the Center for Responsive Politics.
So what do we do? I don’t really know. But it has to start with accountability to us, not to industry, from our elected representatives.
Ross Adams, Boalsburg