Rep. Neal Takes $200k in Campaign Contributions from Pharmaceutical Industry While Constituents Struggle with High Prescription Costs
(Springfield, MA) On June 1, 2018, households across Western Massachusetts’ District One were inundated with a mailing by the American Life Sciences Innovation Council (ALSIC). The mailer announces that Rep. Neal is to be congratulated as a ‘champion of health care innovation.’ ALSIC, a profit-driven special interest group whose priorities include curtailing FDA regulations, ending Medicare Part D rebates, and pushing for more expansive patent rights, has awarded Rep. Neal as its champion because he is exactly that - a champion for special interests and corporate money.
While Americans struggle to pay for outrageously priced prescriptions, pharmaceutical special interests continue to reward Rep. Neal by showering him with campaign contributions. Over the terms of his office, he has received more than $200,000 from pharmaceutical special interests, and he also cast at least two key votes in their favor (see our white paper). The fact is, our congressional representatives cannot effectively tackle the skyrocketing cost of drugs if they are chained to the special interests of the very industry they are supposed to keep in check.
Drug companies have gained a lot by lobbying Congress. Government-funded drug research is a critical part of our medical system, but our laws have enabled drug companies to effectively gain exclusive contracts to manufacture and distribute tax-payer funded drugs at exorbitant costs, with little incentive to lower those costs. Between 1994-2018, nine major drug manufacturers who distribute government developed drugs gave Rep. Neal a total of $104,750 in campaign contributions (see infographic above). “I think it is outrageous that consumers and taxpayers who foot the bill for NIH and other government-funded research should have to pay for it again at the pharmacy counter,” said Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, the Democrat challenging Rep. Neal in the September 4 primary.
Worse, as Congress investigates the role that opioid distributors play in the nation’s opioid crisis, records show Rep. Neal has also accepted $42,500 from three of the nation’s top five opioid distribution firms between 2010-2018. “I’m sure that the participants in the public forum on the opioid crisis Rep. Neal spoke at last October in Shelburne would be upset and dismayed to learn that he is funding his re-election campaign this year with money made by companies that supply the opioids that are killing our friends and neighbors,” said Amatul-Wadud.
Rep. Neal has also received generous donations from pharmacy benefit managers (PBM’s). PBM’s would have taxpayers believe that transparency is bad for the market, but the three largest PBM’s (CVS Caremark, Express Scripts, and OptumRx) control 80% of the market while engaging in practices such as “spread pricing,” which ensures that drug rebates and reimbursements stay in the company’s pocket, not the consumer’s. Between 2004-2018, Rep. Neal has received $17,500 in donations from CVS Caremark, and in the 2018 election cycle he has received $4,500 from Express Scripts.
Rep. Neal has also received donations from Eli Lilly & Co. (maker of Cialis) and Pfizer Inc. (maker of Viagra) after he voted against an amendment that would have prohibited the use of public funds to pay for drugs developed to treat impotence. Since the 2006 election cycle, he has received a total of $51,000 from the two drug giants.
“We need a multi-pronged effort to address the cost of drugs and to that end I support the following initiatives and will push for them if elected,” Amatul-Wadud said.
* Allowing Medicare to directly negotiate with drug makers to keep costs down.
*Reforming biomedical research so that consumers who pay for drugs developed with taxpayer funding at agencies such as NIH are not forced to pay excessive prices for the same medications that they themselves have helped to develop and bring to market.
* Allowing consumers to import lower-cost drugs from Canada and Europe.
* Enactment of the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples Act (CREATES Act, H.R. 2212) which would allow generic drug manufacturers facing certain anticompetitive delay tactics to bring an action in federal court for injunctive relief.
* Passage of the FAST Generics Act (H.R. 2051), that would prevent manipulation of the FDA’s drug safety regulations in order to block the production of generic alternatives to brand name medicines. This would increase consumer access to generic drugs, boost market competition, and ultimately save consumers money.
* Bringing greater scrutiny to the actions and practices of PBMs for their lack of transparency.