The Trump administration has recently been quiet on the issue of high drug prices. However, back in March 2017 Trump criticized the cost of medicine in America, calling it "outrageous." He then said the reason for the lack of progress on reducing drug prices was campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry. The very next day, on March 21st, drug companies donated $279,400 to political campaigns.
The contributions came from eight political action committees and went to seventy-seven different politicians. Both Republicans and Democrats benefited from this attempt to curry favor and block potential legislation to curb high drug prices. The drug company Merck made the largest donations; House Speaker Paul Ryan received $15,000 in contributions and Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), who sits on the Finance Committee, received $7,500. In total, Merck sent $148,000 to sixty candidates. And Kaiser Health News reported that contributions from drug companies have increased in 2017.
Companies may donate for a variety of reasons, but the large amount and the timing of these donations implies that they wanted to stop any momentum to tackle drug prices in its tracks. Pfizer donated $76,000 to several dozen candidates but claimed the timing was just a coincidence. Pfizer's political action committee has donated $418,400 more than any other drug company in the first half of 2017.
Drug prices keep rising, harming million of Americans. Yet drug companies keep arguing against measures to ensure Americans can get medicine at fair prices, and they either cannot or will not reduce prices themselves. The pharmaceutical industry is large, profitable, and influential on Capitol Hill. The practice of making donations to members of Congress is not net, but this year's upsurge in contributions is especially big. Merck, Pfizer, and other companies are trying to head off meaningful legislation that would cut prescription drug costs.
The Drug Pricing Lab has a comprehensive list of federal policy proposals to tackle drug prices, and it is quite extensive. Big Pharma wants to block all of these reforms, and that won't be cheap. Hence the increased contributions. But members of Congress should not make decisions based on their campaign accounts but on what will promote competition and affordable medicines and help the American people. And consumer groups, healthcare providers, businesses, and experts must help them do that as well.