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Pfizer’s Plan to Leave U.S. Unsettles Drug Lobbyists – The New York Times

2015-11-28

WASHINGTON — Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has long been the most politically active drug maker in Washington, and its representatives have tended to wrap themselves in the American flag while pressing their concerns with lawmakers and regulators.

So when the company announced this week that it would abandon not only the flag but the United States, its planned move to Ireland stunned the medicine industry’s lobbying corps — not the least because Pfizer’s chief lobbyist, Sally Susman, is the daughter of one of President Obama’s biggest, most generous benefactors, Louis Susman.

via Pfizer’s Plan to Leave U.S. Unsettles Drug Lobbyists – The New York Times.

This article in the NYT discusses the pharmaceutical industry’s shift to contributing to Democratic Party candidates and its alliance with the Obama administration.   After the   industry provided significant contributions to Obama’s first election campaign, Louis Susman, a lawyer and investment banker who  directed considerable financial support to the Obama campaign, was appointed ambassador to England, a prize political appointment.  He resigned in 2013.  His daughter, Sally Susman, Pfizer’s chief lobbyist, assisted in the fundraising and had been a Clinton administration staff member.

Pfizer is now moving its headquarters to Ireland, which will terminate its tax liability to the US government.  Ms. Susman is making this argument: “Ironically, an inversion makes it easier for an American company to invest in the U.S. and less likely that it will be encumbered by competitive tax disadvantages — or acquired by a foreign competitor.”

US taxpayers are unlikely to believe this argument and the drug companies are aware that the people are angry about recent drug price increases.  For example, the article notes that the last ten new cancer drugs approved cost over $190,000 a year each.

The drug companies have been hit  with criminal cases, multi-billion dollar fines, and other scandals, including the revelation that many drug research studies are tainted or fraudulent.

“There’s just too much obvious greed,” said one anonymous lobbyist.

Patent laws have changed and  attacks by hedge funds against patents have also put pressure on industry.  The Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership will provide less patent protection than current US laws.  Previously, drug lobbyists could have prevented or ameliorated such push-back in Congress, but there is less sympathy in Congress than there was in the past and there is no relief coming.

When drug prices caused concern in Washington in 2009, the Affordable Care Act was seen as a solution by providing more people with insurance.  The drug industry, allying with the Obama administration got behind the insurance law, but this has not relieved the pressure on prices, which have continued to rise at double-digit rates.

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