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Big Pharma Greed Is ‘Killing Americans,’ Sanders Says Outside Drug Lobby HQ

"How many people need to die, how many people need to get unnecessarily sicker, before Congress is prepared to take on the greed of the prescription drug industry?" asked Sen. Bernie Sanders.

By Jake Johnson / Common Dreams

Bernie Sanders at a protest
Sen. Bernie Sanders and progressive activists rally at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America headquarters in Washington, D.C. on September 21, 2021. (Photo: People’s Action)

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and progressive healthcare campaigners from across the U.S. rallied at the headquarters of Big Pharma’s top lobbying group on Tuesday to denounce the industry’s ongoing effort to tank Democrats’ prescription drug-pricing reforms, including a plan to let Medicare negotiate soaring medicine costs.

Gathered at Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America’s (PhRMA) main office building in Washington, D.C., advocates with People’s Action and other groups delivered a letter (pdf) demanding an end to the for-profit drug industry’s “meddling in our democracy and influence in Congress.”

The letter, addressed to PhRMA CEO Stephen Ubl and signed by nearly thirty progressive organizations, notes that “nearly one in four Americans taking prescription drugs have trouble affording their medications.”

“People regularly skip doses or don’t fill prescriptions that they need because they are too expensive. This results in pain and suffering, further compromised health conditions, and even death. Most people agree this is unacceptable,” the letter reads. “But because of the greed and lobbying by organizations like yours, our elected officials are coerced into defending the high costs of prescription drugs, rather than defending their constituents who desperately need their medications.”

“Elected officials are parroting your talking points: the high prices of prescription drugs are necessary to promote innovation and the development of new medications,” the letter continues. “This is a lie.”

Activists drove that point home during their rally on Tuesday, condemning pharmaceutical industry profits as “blood money” and vowing to continue pressuring Democratic lawmakers to follow through on their vows to slash drug costs.

“When people come together to fight for what’s right, we can win,” one campaigner said from the entrance of PhRMA’s headquarters, where People’s Action members held signs that read “Stop Pharma Greed” and “People Over Pharma.”

Some advocates in attendance dressed up as right-wing Democratic lawmakers and fanned themselves with wads of mock pharmaceutical industry cash while others chanted, “Pharma greed has got to go!” and, “Pharma lies, people die!”

Addressing the crowd, Sanders blasted pharmaceutical industry lobbying as “legal corruption” that enables corporations to “buy the United States Congress.”

“The greed of the prescription drug industry is literally killing Americans,” said the Vermont senator. “All over this country, the American people are asking a simple question: How many people need to die, how many people need to get unnecessarily sicker, before Congress is prepared to take on the greed of the prescription drug industry?”

The protest came amid an intensifying fight on Capitol Hill over Democrats’ prescription drug plan, which is under threat from pharma-backed lawmakers who are working to tank a centerpiece of their own party’s agenda.

Last week, three Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee—Reps. Kathleen Rice of New York, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, and Scott Peters of California—blocked passage of a popular measure that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies. Peters is the top House recipient of pharmaceutical industry donations this election cycle, and Schrader inherited a fortune from his grandfather, who was a top executive at Pfizer.

According to a Washington Post tally, at least nine total Democrats in the House and Senate are seen as potentially hostile to their party’s drug-pricing reforms, which are part of a broader budget reconciliation package that Democrats hope to pass in the coming weeks.

Armed with around 1,500 registered lobbyists—nearly three for each member of Congress—and endless cash to pump into misleading ad campaigns, Big Pharma has aggressively mobilized to defeat Democrats’ drug-pricing plan, which would endanger the industry’s ability to set medicine prices unencumbered by government regulation. Pharmaceutical companies’ near-total control over price-setting is one of the primary reasons the U.S. pays two to four times more for prescription drugs than other rich countries.

Sanders, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee and a leading supporter of the Medicare provision, said last week that there’s “no excuse” for any Democrat to oppose their party’s plan to challenge the pharmaceutical industry, which has seen massive profits during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We cannot continue to allow the drug companies to charge us any price they want,” Sanders said during Tuesday’s rally. “We are saying enough is enough.”


    1. I wish sanders’ actions matched his rhetoric. the dems always pretend they can’t do anything because republicans (or the parliamentarian LOL) block them, and sanders always pretends he’s going to fight but then he bows to the dems. nothing will change until there’s a nationwide general strike. no work, no school, no shopping.

      1. That’s right. Sanders won’t even utter the phrase “Medicare for all” anymore, apparently on orders from the Dem Party leadership. It’s outrageous to see Sanders bow before the rightwing Dems. Like the Squad, he’s all talk.

  1. Yes, we’ve been hearing this for years. Americans decided that people are entitled only to what they, personally can pay for. Businesses (medical included) set the prices. Did you think this only applied o the poor?

    Incidentally, human rights were codified in the UN’s UDHR. The most basic of these are to food, shelter, medical care – even for the jobless poor. Obviously, the US rejects international human rights standards.

  2. I love Bernie’s spin and is as real as the greed that also lies about ivermectin, a drug from the soil and so much more useful than CDC, FDA, or NIH has allowed, yes, allowed is the correct word.
    Did they really think they could hide the history of ivermectin, a noble prize winner, not just used for horses, but curing River Blindness for real, like some folks portend Jesus did! I love that it comes directly from the soil, so different than coming from plants like most first medicines did, but not really. Soil is overlooked. See Kiss the Ground, a book and a documentary by same title. Like the history of the making of this country, much has been hidden. Take a seat, and start listening and watching. There’s better programs/videos/media/social/ whose content is more truthful, necessary, and important for maintaining and sustaining any kind of future, much less a single day out of time. Please support FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE and join a local climate strike. Watch the aforementioned video/book. Let your leaders know they are on watch or however that expression goes, and that you care. That you care makes a great deal of difference and never forget that, even if attending this event that lends itself to a statement in numbers is all you can do, it is something so worthwhile. Our city and county are watching, even if sometimes, our local newspaper is not reporting. Never know. They might improve too.

  3. Sanders is a phony Socialist. He’s Social-lite. We need real Socialist policies, not some ham-handed platitudes from a mildly-New Deal Democrat who’s more concerned about preserving his career than taking on the power establishment. Sanders is afraid of ending up like Ralph Nader: in the wilderness. Sanders is a coward.

  4. Big Pharma operates in the tradition of true American exploitative business behavior. Control over bodies (slavery, health insurance leashed to employers), and ending bodies (extermination) in order to make money. This process has 200-400 years of precedence and will continue because we Americans have a unending infatuation with the individual (the corporation in this case) succeeding in spite of obvious community detriment. “The business of America is business” said either Coolidge or Hoover. The business of this country is not its people. Get that straight. Biden (or Trump for that matter) as president of this country rather of Sanders captures the essence of the ongoing and outdated 1950’s mindset that is not equipped to deal with the present nor the future.

  5. Perhaps Bernie if he cared so much would have actually tried to win. He could have changed the world….the stars aligned and he was in the right place in history at the right time when the need was greatest, and he pissed it away and instead became a sheepdog and a loser. I have nothing but contempt for the man.

    1. Same here. Joe Manchin, a rightwing corporatist, gets the full faith of the Dem Party, while Sanders bends over backwards for them, and they still hate him. It’s over, Bernie. By all means keep up the theater, but that’s all it ever was.

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