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Pharma Industry backs Democratic Holdouts

House Democrats who voted against a crucial element in the $3.5 trillion reconciliation proposal to cut prescription medicine prices received significant campaign contributions from pharmaceutical industry PACs and CEOs. Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), who co-authored a letter with nine other moderate Democrats in May saying that lower prescription prices will stifle pharmaceutical sector research and development, leads the Democratic opposition to the drug pricing clause.

Instead of pharmaceutical firms setting their rates with no competition, the plan would allow Medicare programs to negotiate lower costs for prescription pharmaceuticals.  Democrat Reps. Kurt Scharder (D-Ore.) and Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) joined Peters in voting against the measure at the bill’s markup in the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday (D-Calif.). The stalemate resulted from three Democratic “no” votes and unanimous Republican opposition on the committee, meaning the provision could not be included in the budget bill.

Internal opposition to the medication pricing plan, which may have resulted in lower-income pharmaceutical companies, demonstrates the industry’s rising political spending. In 2020, the business gave $89 million to political campaigns, with 61 percent going to Democrats. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Minority Leader, was the industry’s top recipient among House members that cycle, collecting $446,334. During that cycle, Pelosi collected $151,122.

Since his election in 2012, Peters has received steady financial support from the pharmaceutical industry. According to OpenSecrets data, pharmaceutical PACs and workers have donated $860,465 to his campaigns during his career, the second-most of any industry. In addition, Peters received many significant contributions from chief executive officers of pharmaceutical corporations after he wrote the letter to Pelosi. On May 4, he got $5,800 from Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, $5,000 from Eli Lilly and Company CEO David Ricks, $2,900 from Kenneth Frazier, then-CEO of Merck & Co., and $2,900 from Giovanni Caforio, then-CEO of Bristol Myers Squibb.

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