As long as our legislative system, public health agencies, physicians and research journals accept money from pharmaceutical manufacturers, and our justice system keeps letting drug companies off the hook when their negligence causes harm, there’s no reason for Big Pharma to change.
After graduating from Columbia University with a chemical engineering degree, my grandfather went on to work for Pfizer for almost two decades, culminating his career as the company’s global director of new products.
I was rather proud of this fact growing up — it felt as if this father figure, who raised me for several years during my childhood, had somehow played a role in saving lives.
But in recent years, my perspective on Pfizer — and other companies in its class — has shifted.
Blame it on the insidious Big Pharma corruption laid bare by whistleblowers in recent years. Blame it on the endless string of Big Pharma lawsuits revealing fraud, deception and cover-ups. Blame it on the fact that I witnessed some of their most profitable drugs ruin the lives of those I love most.
All I know is, that pride I once felt has been overshadowed by a sticky skepticism I just can’t seem to shake.
In 1973, my grandpa and his colleagues celebrated as Pfizer crossed a milestone: the one-billion-dollar sales mark. These days, Pfizer rakes in $81 billion a year, making it the 28th most valuable company in the world. Johnson & Johnson ranks 15th, with $93.77 billion.
To put things into perspective, that makes said companies wealthier than most countries in the world. And thanks to those astronomical profit margins, the pharmaceuticals and health products industry is able to spend more on lobbying than any other industry in America.
While Big Pharma lobbying can take several different forms, these companies tend to target their contributions to senior legislators in Congress — you know, the ones they need to keep in their corner, because they have the power to draft healthcare laws.
Pfizer has outspent its peers in six of the last eight election cycles, coughing up almost $9.7 million. During the 2016 election, pharmaceutical companies gave more than $7 million to 97 senators at an average of $75,000 per member.
They also contributed $6.3 million to president Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign. The question is: what did Big Pharma get in return?
When you've got 1,500 Big Pharma lobbyists on Capitol Hill for 535 members of Congress, it's not too hard to figure out why prescription drug prices in this country are, on average, 256% HIGHER than in other major countries.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 3, 2022