Obama Administration Pushes New Trade Agreement That Would Further Enrich Pharmaceutical Companies And Discourage Lower Priced Generic Drugs

President_Barack_Obama220px-FlattenedRoundPillsThe Obama Administration has been widely criticized for being captured by the pharmaceutical industry, which has gotten the White House to block efforts to guarantee lower cost drugs and increase profits for these companies. Pharmaceutical lobbyists have in turn given huge amounts of campaign money to President Obama and Democratic members as well as jobs to former members. Even with this record, however, many are shocked by the White House pushing of a trade agreement that would undermine international efforts to reduce the cost of drugs and extend the patents for these companies to further increase their profits. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) allows for techniques like “evergreening” to extend patents for the industry, which in turn has continued its own evergreen record of high-paying jobs for political allies and massive campaign contributions for the White House and Congress. Everyone wins . . . except the tens of millions who cannot afford medicine. While these companies have valid interests in recouping their investment and making profits on new drugs (which are expensive to develop), the secrecy and sweeping impact of the TPP deserves far greater attention in the media.

The Obama Administration is in Salt Lake City to push 11 other countries to agree to the changes on intellectual property rules. Of course, Obama’s self-described “most transparent” administration has kept the public out of the proceedings and much of the work has been in secret. Cloaked from the public eye, the Obama Administration has carried out the demands of the industry over the international need for lower priced drugs.

While the public is barred, companies like Walmart and Monsanto are allowed to participate. The former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson joined protests of the Administration’s “horrible betrayal of the American promise of liberty, of equality.” The Administration and its partners clearly picked Salt Lake City in winter as the least likely to generate protests, but still faced protesters in the street outside of the hotel.

In the meantime, the White House is touting the agreement to extend patent rights (and prices) for companies as “a model for future trade agreements.” It includes extending drug patent terms from 20 years to at least 25 years and would allow companies to patent new formulations of existing medicines. This is called “evergreening,” which involves small changes like a shift from a gel to a tablet to continue to control the sale and prices of a drug. It also has provisions to make it more difficult to market lower cost generic drugs until the long patent periods have run. It is a bonanza for drug companies and lobbyists. Public interest groups have denounced the effort but few people in Congress are willing to oppose the drug lobby.
Lobbying remains one of the most profitable areas for former members. Ironically, the pharmaceutical industry has been repeatedly denounced for the hiring of former members and staffers in what some view as a award for the passage of windfall legislation.

The hold of these companies on the White House and Congress is remarkable . . . as is the open revolving door of influence. For example, former Congressman Billy Tauzin, R-La., pushed the bill through the House over objections from members and public interest organizations. He then accepted a $2 million a year job as president of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the main industry lobbying group. Medicare head Thomas Scully, who was accused of coercing employees to hide the true costs of the program, was given a job as a pharmaceutical lobbyist as were 14 congressional aides who worked on the passage of the bill. Twenty-five former members and high-ranking staffers returned to lobby for the industry with huge salaries — an example to others how to profiteer at the public expense.

With our current duopoly of power, there is little threat to this lobby which has deep hold of both parties. When confronted, the two parties simply return to the same blue state/red state rhetoric and portray the other side as worse. In fact, they are on the same side and the only people made worse are millions of Americans who are being bled financially to get access to needed drugs.

104 thoughts on “Obama Administration Pushes New Trade Agreement That Would Further Enrich Pharmaceutical Companies And Discourage Lower Priced Generic Drugs”

  1. pdm,
    I saw that article about the 501c3 regs being changed to attempt to weed out the political organizations abusing the law. Let’s see if the regs change after the comment period.

  2. Thank You G.Mason, the echoes of Democracy are waning, the youth must start their shouting, or drown in the tide. Greed will recede in the trampling.
    Sadly so many will be trampled. K sera sera, it has always been. Foresight is unproven. Till it is.

  3. OK class. Today’s dictionary word is “sanctimony”.

    Raise your hand when you have the answer.

  4. Just read that Obama is pushing for tightening and defining the regs on 501(c)3s!!

    Won’t mean perfection but it will be the good.

    That and all the “distractions”. Hellofa week.

  5. davidbluefish, I thought for years like the vast majority of US citizens thinking calling myself an American was proper. When one travels and has an open mind you get different perspectives. Now, I don’t accept every criticism of the US I hear abroad as legit, but I do this one. The several people who pointed it out weren’t angry or have chips on their shoulders. They were sincere and appreciated my listening to their argument. There is no better education than travel.

  6. Mr Jonathon Turley, Could you try and get a like button on your site. I personally would probably break it from overuse. PDM posted this.

    “raff, I think it’s going to take more than overturning Citizens. NAFTA was passed pre Citizens. It is going to take publicly funded elections – period. And maybe that old FCC (?) FEC (?) ruling about equal air time. And debates run by League of Women Voters.”

    I would like to agree with him. … Simply.

    CU is destroying Democracy. … However …If the citizens don’t care,… We don’t deserve Democracy. I think the 0.1%ers figured this out,and and now all they do is adjust their trickle. And they are adjusting the Laws.

    THANKS CONGRESS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Nick Spinelli, I agree with you I am a United Station, or a Stater, or from the States.
    North America and South America, includes numerous populations. It is Hubris, … and nothing more for United Statetions to declare themselves Americans. It is the same as if we declared ourselves Vespucians.
    Amerigo Vespuci graphed the geography of the western hemisphere. Technically if the rest of the western hemisphere called themselves Vespuscians … I would concede the others point. BUT WE DON’T. We are United Stations. I do not agree with any other logic

    This does not make me right,…It just makes me sincere, and in agreement with you. .

  8. We can’t afford affordable health care….. I recently had an antibiotic filled…. This one required preauthorization….. Say… What… 75$ copayment… It’s crazy….. Insurance companies and pharma cos need to be reigned in….Canadian style….

  9. pdm,

    “raff, I think it’s going to take more than overturning Citizens.”

    True and you make some fine additional suggestions, however, I don’t think fundamental change will come to the electoral system until both Citizens United and the outright lie it is based on – Buckley v. Valeo – are both overturned or legislated out of play. Hands down, my most depressing day of law school was the day I read Buckley. It doesn’t take a genius to realize the implications of the severely flawed logic that led to a conclusion that money is the equivalent of free speech. There is no such thing as “hard money” or “soft money” there is only money and when you give it a status commensurate with a fundamentally protected Constitutional right you are building the perfect beast (to wax all Don Henley on you). The path to fascism is laid with many bricks, but that? Was one of the first ones laid in earnest. Say what you want about Nixon (dog knows I do), but he was right in signing FECA and its campaign contribution limits in to law.

  10. raff, I think it’s going to take more than overturning Citizens. NAFTA was passed pre Citizens. It is going to take publicly funded elections – period. And maybe that old FCC (?) FEC (?) ruling about equal air time. And debates run by League of Women Voters.

  11. You’re the guy that brought up the “distraction” nonsense. I thought you’d get a kick out of Millbank’s retort especially as you are a well known lover of movies. Sorry it was too difficult for you.

  12. Great links Elaine. The TPP is a raw secret deal for the American worker. The only way we can remove this kind of corporate run governmental action is remove money from politics and over turn Citizens United.

  13. Nick, – Just change those dates and bit and you’ve got St. Raygun! And he didn’t only meet with them – he sold them missiles.

    But you sure are one funny libertarian. Are you sure you don’t mean neo-conservative? All those guys just love the idea of going to war for Israel.

    But this American is not anxious to have Bibi run our foreign policy or address joint sessions of congress right before an election. Let him make peace with the Palestinians before he gives us lessons on how to kill our soldiers and spend our dollars.

  14. Gee, I wasn’t aware we were @ war w/ Iran? Another “leader” met w/ a rogue regime who was intent on wiping Jews off the face of the earth 75 years ago. And, this great leader proudly declared he brought “Peace in our time.”

  15. Now here is something worth thinking about….

    Dana Milbank had a clever line today ” “This is the first time a President has been accused of using peace to distract attention. Usually, it’s starting a war.”

    Wish I had thought of that!

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