Sunday, April 1, 2007

Can't you smell that smell? Follow The Money

60 Minutes ran its episode today titled Under the Influence about the incestuous and corrupt influence of the Pharmaceutical Lobby and the full text and video are here.

The episode has been well covered at Pharmalot.

I have never been a big fan of 60 Minutes but have to admit they got this story right.

Prepare yourself for non-stop media coverage of all things pharmacy and PBM related through the 2008 elections. Have no delusions this attention will leap the firebreak into employer sponsored plans and be a featured part of The Healthcare Debate, as well it should. Employers should not have any illusions they fare any better via their formulary/rebate driven PBMS. Psst, they are doing it to you as well. Quick somebody find me a Physician on the Board at Express Scripts, MEDCO, or CVS CareMark.

Spring is here and 12 months from the 2008 primaries we have 60 Minutes airing a story that will be whipping Seniors into righteous indignation. It is interesting how 60 minutes waited 3.5 years after the vote to run the story though--just had to wait for the 1st candidate to promise free health care. Imagine what was talked about in retirement communities all over Florida tonight? I bet it had to do with this;

"You push this bill through that produces a windfall for the drug companies. And then a short time later, you go to work for the drug lobby at a salary of $2 million. That doesn't look good," says Kroft.

"There was nothing I could've done in my life after leaving Congress that wouldn't have had — I didn't have some impact on in 25 years in Congress … If that looks bad to you, have at it," Tauzin says. "That's the truth."

In fairness to Tauzin and former Medicare chief Tom Scully, they weren't the only public officials involved with the prescription drug bill who later went to work for the pharmaceutical industry.

Just before the vote, Tauzin cited the people who had been most helpful in getting it passed. Among them:

  • John McManus, the staff director of the Ways and Means subcommittee on Health. Within a few months, he left Congress and started his own lobbying firm. Among his new clients was PhRMA, Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Merck.

  • Linda Fishman, from the majority side of the Finance Committee, left to become a lobbyist with the drug manufacturer Amgen.

  • Pat Morrisey, chief of staff of the Energy and Commerce Committee, took a job lobbying for drug companies Novartis and Hoffman-La Roche.

  • Jeremy Allen went to Johnson and Johnson.

  • Kathleen Weldon went to lobby for Biogen, a Bio-tech company.

  • Jim Barnette left to lobby for Hoffman-La Roche.

    In all, at least 15 congressional staffers, congressmen and federal officials left to go to work for the pharmaceutical industry, whose profits were increased by several billion dollars.

    "I mean, they — they have unlimited resources. Unlimited," Burton says. "And when they push real hard to get something accomplished in the Congress of the United States, they can get it done."

  • As this story gets legs, and it will, quite a few HR/Benefits People may be answering questions about how they know with certainty they are getting the best deals on Drugs from their PBM? Prudent employers should be prepared with data for the phone call. It is time to get ahead of the snowball before it becomes an avalanche.

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