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Federal and Big Pharma Co-mingling Conceives Concerns of Corruption

Big Pharma Companies & Politicians: A Match Made In Hell

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US Lobbying disclosures:

We found that there are more international lobbyists and investment firms interfering with our legislation than there are national counterparts.

For example, this overseas entity (Covington and Burling LLP) has contributed more than one million USD towards lobbying for pharmaceutical companies, to modify legislation to favor them instead of you as the individual and citizen.

What can you do?

Stop sharing your data with for-profit entities.

Understand the correlation demonstrating that legislators are more likely to have profitable ties to pharmaceutical entities the longer they are in office.

Be more mindful of the reasons medications and treatments are being recommended.

Learn how to benefit from your living data in multiple ways, to justify the effort.

Take control of your own health and data as soon as possible.

Big pharma money is everywhere in federal politics

Moderna and Avenue Solutions: PR firm Avenue Solutions is known for lobbying for the wrong side of the fence, against human rights, and for corporate control of health legislation.

Avenue Solutions, which picked up the Moderna account earlier this year, has done work for the American Medical Assn., Merck, UnitedHealth Group, ExxonMobil and Environmental Working Group.

Ray Jordan, a veteran of Amgen, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, joined Moderna in June to head its corporate affairs unit.

Big pharma companies hire former legislators and federal employees to head up their political operations and lobby on their behalf.

We see it in detail over the COVID-19 times, with the FDA leadership revolving in and out of lobbyist firms. Even cigarette companies do this, like this example of an FDA representative working for Philip Morris International after her tenure in Congress. Really seems like a natural transition when you see all the corruption in these tactics.

Keagan Lenihan, who served as chief of staff and associate commissioner for external affairs and strategic initiatives at the Food and Drug Administration, is now at Philip Morris International.

She is VP of government affairs & public policy and head of the Washington office of the cigarette company.

Their pledged support of $80 million per year over 12 years may sound sizable, but it is a drop in the bucket compared to the health costs of tobacco. In fact, it is a tiny fraction of the $300 billion in annual health and related costs due to tobacco in the United States.

American Cancer Association

Tobacco is the #1 leading cause of preventable death globally. Why would a high-level FDA representation want to turncoat like that, or were they always running both sides? Seemingly, their PR is so pervasive that even the American Cancer Association is not being taken as the expert on the subject.

Learn more about determining misinformation and disinformation online here.

Pharma companies are some of the biggest contributors to congressional campaigns, and they spend hundreds of millions lobbying lawmakers every year.

Take a look at some of the top contributors year over year from a fellow non-profit. Interesting that Meta and Amazon are not in the top five.

And who has received the most contributions from lobbyists? Someone’s name returns to haunt us. John Thune.

The revolving door between big pharma companies, lawmakers, and regulatory agencies allows all kinds of perks to flow both ways.

Of the highest-paid lobbying agencies registered with the United States House of Representatives, more than half of their staff is a “revolver” or a direct hire from their legislator position.

It’s everyone’s favorite character villain trope.. the entity running both sides.

Big pharma companies also employ other strategies for influencing policy for personal profit.

Example: The Moderna CEO (Stéphane Bancel) was also CEO of an overseas entity that broke patent laws for over six years, then spun the news to distract from their deception during the peak of concerns about COVID-19.

Some people just hate patents and patent owners, we know that. But when tragedy is used to misinform and to advance an ideological agenda, we should all be able to agree that crosses a line.


The most aggressive congressional investors in the biomedical sector also sit on key committees, such as the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over patent law, or the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the Food and Drug Administration and works on many issues of critical importance to the industry, including drug regulation, research funding, and taxes on medical devices.

The combination of all these factors means there’s a lot of room for corruption in federal politics around pharmaceuticals.

Seventy-two senators and 302 members of the House of Representatives cashed a check from the pharmaceutical industry ahead of the 2020 election — representing more than two-thirds of Congress, according to a new STAT analysis of records for the full election cycle.

fry from futurama looking skeptical because legislators shouldnt also invest in pharma

Pfizer’s political action committee alone contributed to 228 lawmakers. Amgen’s PAC donated to 218, meaning that each company helped to fund the campaigns of nearly half the lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Overall, the sector donated $14 million.

The top recipient of drug industry cash was Rep. Richard Hudson, a Republican from North Carolina. Major drug industry groups donated $139,500 to his most recent campaign, a sum remarkable in large part because Hudson is not a particularly powerful lawmaker, nor a known fundraiser. He does hold a seat on the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, an influential panel that oversees a large share of health care legislation before Congress.

Other committee members also ranked near the top in drug company donations, including several Democrats: Reps. Kurt Schrader (Ore.), Robin Kelly (Ill.), and Anna Eshoo (Calif.), the subcommittee chair.

As was the case in state legislatures, the pharmaceutical industry was remarkably effective when it came to spending money on winning candidates. Very few candidates who accepted drug industry cash ended up losing reelection. Many donations targeted Republican senators at risk of losing their seats, like Tillis. Other top recipients included GOP Sens. Joni Ernst (Iowa), John Cornyn (Texas), and Steve Daines (Mont.).

Takeaway: We have many reasons to be concerned about potential conflicts of interest when it comes to the way lawmakers shape our country’s drug policies.

The breadth of the spending highlights the drug industry’s continued clout in Washington. Even after years of criticism from Congress and the White House over high prices, it remains routine for the elected officials who regulate the health care industry to accept six-figure sums.

We can change this by withholding our data from for-profits who use it without compensating individuals. Fitbit, Apple, Facebook, all of these entities are collecting and selling your property, and your data, and you are not being compensated for it.

Instead of funding all the corruption as the source of the wealth, the person generating the data, just stop sharing your data with for-profits that do not return the favor.

[2022] Pharma showers John Thune with campaign cash

Flagship Pioneering, the venture capital firm that bet on Moderna Therapeutics long before Covid-19, has hired one of the pharmaceutical industry’s favorite lobbying firms to advocate on their behalf in Washington, according to new federal disclosures.

The move comes on the heels of venture capitalists’ broader push to influence the debate in Washington over high drug prices. But it’s rare for venture capital firms to hire their own lobbyists, rather than rely on coalitions and industry groups; Flagship’s major competitors haven’t brought on their own firms.

Pharma’s new favorite lawmaker: John Thune

It’s a relatively new Washington tradition: In recent years, CEOs at some of the nation’s most powerful pharmaceutical companies have picked one or two lawmakers to flood with donations from their own bank accounts. Last year it was moderate Democrats Rep. Scott Peters and Sen. Bob Menendez. The year before it was Republican Sen. Thom Tillis.The first lawmaker to receive that treatment in 2022 is Sen. John Thune, the Senate Republican Whip who is widely seen as a potential successor to the Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell. Thune received checks from several pharmaceutical executives in February, shortly after announcing his run for reelection, according to STAT’s analysis of campaign finance data.

Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day gave Thune $5,800 on Feb 22. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla gave the same on Feb. 4. David Ricks, the CEO of Eli Lilly, gave Thune $2,900 on Feb. 14. Ramona Sequeira, president of Takeda’s Global Portfolio Division and the chair of the lobbying organization PhRMA, gave $1,500 on Feb. 8. And Kabir Nath, the CEO of Otsuka North America, also gave Thune $1,000 on Feb. 9.

Top execs from PhRMA have gotten in on the giving too. The group’s CEO Steve Ubl gave Thune $2,000 on Feb. 17. Four of the organization’s other top execs also gave the senator $1,000 that month. Political action committees for Merck, Teva, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson wrote checks to Thune in February, too.

All told, Thune raked in more than $35,000 from pharmaceutical companies in February.

Thune has been a little quieter than most on the issue of drug pricing reform. Like many Republicans, he publicly slammed Democrats’ signature drug pricing bill in 2019, for potentially “destroying the system that has produced so much access and innovation for American patients,” but he hasn’t worked on his own drug pricing legislation in recent years. Instead, his latest health care bills have focused on making sure Head Start programs don’t require masks, extending the FDA’s flexibility on who can make hand sanitizer, and extending eligibility for hospitals participating in the 340B drug discount program, which is maligned by drug makers.

[2021] Trump’s FDA commissioner takes a job at Moderna backer

Trump’s FDA commissioner takes a job at Moderna backer

Stephen Hahn joins Flagship Pioneering, which launched Moderna a decade ago and made billions from its coronavirus vaccine

Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Stephen Hahn is joining the venture capital firm that launched Moderna and remains closely tied to the coronavirus vaccine maker, the firm confirmed on Monday.

Hahn will serve as a chief medical officer at Flagship Pioneering — which incubated Moderna more than a decade ago — as the life sciences venture firm announced its expansion into new projects like pandemic preparedness. The former commissioner’s move is the latest by a federal official to a company that is regulated by the government or that might profit from firms regulated by the government — what critics call a revolving door that they say undermines trust in federal decisions.“In my career, I have been a doctor and a researcher foremost and it is an honor to join Flagship Pioneering in its efforts to prioritize innovation,” Hahn said in a statement. The Washington Post first reported that Hahn was in talks to join the company.

Flagship and Moderna, which are headquartered near each other in Cambridge, Mass., continue to share ties. Flagship CEO Noubar Afeyan serves as chairman of Moderna; Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO, serves as a Flagship special partner. Flagship also holds 20 million shares of Moderna stock, which are currently valued at more than $4 billion after the vaccine-maker’s stock price soared during the pandemic; it sold $1.4 billion worth of Moderna shares earlier this year, senior partner Christine Heenan confirmed. Moderna had never turned a profit before the pandemic.

Hahn, a longtime cancer doctor who headed the FDA when it authorized Moderna’s vaccine last year before stepping down at the end of the Trump administration, will start at Flagship on Wednesday, the company said.There are no rules barring Hahn from taking a role with Flagship, and other FDA officials have taken prominent positions in biotechnology after leaving government service. Scott Gottlieb, who preceded Hahn as FDA commissioner during the Trump administration, joined the board of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer after stepping down from government in 2019.

Amy Abernethy, who was the FDA’s top career official under Hahn, this month was hired by Verily, the Google spinoff focused on healthcare innovation — the same firm where former FDA commissioner Robert Califf serves as an adviser.

Ethics experts said that Hahn would be limited in communicating with the FDA, including a lifetime ban on particular matters that he worked on and a one-year ban on communicating with the FDA about any matters on behalf of his new employer.

The Office of Government Ethics referred questions to a 2016 legal advisory that would permit Hahn to provide “behind-the-scenes” assistance to Flagship, like giving advice or drafting documents.

But watchdogs raised concerns regardless. “Is it concerning whenever a high-level government official who was instrumental in actions that may have profited a company turns around and goes to work for that company soon thereafter? You bet it is,” said Walter Shaub, a senior ethics fellow at the Project On Government Oversight and the former director of the Office of Government Ethics. “This is one of many gaps in our weak ethics laws.”Jeff Hauser, director of the Revolving Door Project at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said he was specifically concerned that Hahn would take a role with Moderna’s key backer, citing conspiracy theories promulgated by anti-vaccination groups about pharmaceutical companies profiting from the pandemic.“You want to avoid even the suggestion of a financial payoff for vaccine approval,” Hauser added, saying that the perception of the “FDA needs to be holier-than-thou … There should not be any appearance of any conflict.”

Hahn, who was confirmed by the Senate as FDA commissioner in December 2019, withstood White House pressure to rush authorization of the vaccines before Election Day, backing career officials who set tougher standards to boost transparency and public trust in them. More than 70 million Americans have since received Moderna’s two-dose mRNA vaccine, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Moderna reported $1.2 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2021, driven by $1.7 billion in coronavirus vaccine sales, compared to a loss of $124 million in the first quarter of 2020. The 11-year-old company also received $955 million in contracts with the U.S. government to develop the coronavirus vaccine as part of last year’s Operation Warp Speed push.

Meanwhile, Flagship on Monday announced that it had raised an additional $2.2 billion, as it prepares to launch a new “preemptive medicine and health security” division dedicated to preventing the onset of diseases like cancer, as well as future pandemic threats. Hahn will serve as the division’s chief medical officer.“There is no better example of the power of bio platform companies than Flagship-founded Moderna, which was able to rapidly shift its focus in 2020 to develop, test, and deploy its covid-19 vaccine in record time,” Afeyan said in a statement, announcing the additional funding.

[2019] Pharma lobbyists flood the zone in D.C., with Pfizer and Amgen leading the way

Pharma lobbyists flood the zone in D.C., with Pfizer and Amgen leading the way

Big Pharma has taken a tongue-lashing on Capitol Hill as scrutiny over drug pricing and competition ramps up. But while executives were raked over the coals on live TV, a surge of pharma lobbyists worked overtime behind the scenes. In the first three months of 2019, pharma’s top 10 biggest spenders on congressional lobbying shelled out nearly $31 million, according to reports filed with the U.S. Senate. The totals include money spent by the company itself and by hired guns lobbying on its behalf. The single largest corporate spender, Pfizer, dropped a whopping $5.13 million in the first quarter, well on its way to matching or surpassing its 2018 total spending of $11.41 million. Among the other drugmakers topping the list in the first quarter are Amgen—which shelled out $4.36 million total—Roche, Merck & Co., and AbbVie. The latter three each spent more than $3 million. Rounding out the top 10 were Bayer and its $2.9 million in lobbying spend; Gilead, with $2.37 million; and Sanofi, J&J, and Eli Lilly, each of which totted up almost $2 million.

But pharma companies are not the only players on the field. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA) continues to blanket Washington with lobbyists, spending an eye-popping $11.39 million on direct lobbying and third-party representation in the first quarter. That blank check on Capitol Hill follows PhRMA’s record year in 2018 when it racked up a $27.5 million bill lobbying Congress. Other trade associations—like the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) and the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA), which represents pharmacy benefits managers—also spent some serious money last quarter, with $3.48 million and $1.49 million, respectively.

Overall, pharma lobbying sported a record spending year in 2018, what with pricing a continued hot-button issue and Medicare changes threatening drug sales. The first-quarter spending totals could put drugmakers on track for another record this year. And no wonder: Now that Democrats have taken the majority in the House and the 2020 presidential campaign is heating up, lawmakers are considering a slew of bills that could cap drug-price increases and stimulate branded drug competition from generics and biosimilars.

All of that pressure, in addition to calls for “Medicare for All” from progressive presidential candidates, has sent stocks on a roller coaster ride in recent weeks and presents long-term concerns for the industry, analysts say. Last Tuesday, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ call for universal, single-payer health care during a FoxNews Town Hall event coincided with a two-day drop of more than 200 basis points on the NASDAQ Biotech Index. Wells Fargo analyst David Maris said the high-profile threat to pharma’s bottom line will continue to send shockwaves through the industry. “We believe the underperformance seen in pharmaceuticals stocks is likely to continue as the political and social debate on drug prices continues, and perhaps the environment will improve when the debate eventually turns to the costs of Medicare-for-All or when we get past the period of uncertainty of reform,” Maris told investors in a note last week. 

Daniel Auble, a senior researcher with the Center for Responsive Politics, said pharma’s sense of being “under threat of regulation” has led to a widespread push for more lobbying.”It remains to be seen whether the upward trend will continue in 2019 but the continued scrutiny of healthcare in general, and pharmaceuticals in particular, indicates it likely will,” Auble told FiercePharma in an email.  That “period of uncertainty” shows little sign of ending for now. And amid the flurry of proposed legislation, committee investigations in Washington continue. In January, Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, launched an investigation into pharma’s drug-pricing strategies, including requesting justification for the industry’s periodic increases in prices.

However, that investigation has met pushback from GOP committee members, who have counseled drug companies to stonewall Cummings’ effort out of fear, in part, that the investigation’s results would be leaked to the press.

Drugmakers fighting tooth and nail to stave off competitors might have scored a win after former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, an ardent supporter of easing approval of biosims and ramping up competition for single-source brands, left the administration this month. Gottlieb announced he planned to accept a fellowship at Washington’s American Enterprise Institute to help shape policy to lower the cost of prescription drugs.

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