House Starts Probe Of Pharma Deals on Obamacare

House Starts Probe Of Pharma Deals on Obamacare

May 7th, 2012 // 12:49 pm @


large drugmakers are being probed by Congress as part of the deal reached between the pharmaceutical industry and the Obama administration to support the Democratic Party overhaul of the US health care system. The investigation by House Republicans began last year and was expanded to include several drugmakers when an unnamed industry trade group declined to cooperate, Bloomberg News reports. PhRMA, however, tells the news service that it is cooperating. Among those being investigated is Pfizer, Amgen, Abbott Laboratories, AstraZeneca and Merck, the news service writes.

“This has been like pulling teeth, trying to get information,” Michael Burgess, a Texas Congressman and a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is conducting the probe, tells Bloomberg. So far, the committee has sought e-mails and meetings with company lobbyists and lawyers, but has not issued subpoenas or formal letters that can be used to push uncooperative targets into compliance, a source tells the news service. Spokespeople for Pfizer and Amgen confirmed their cooperation, but other drugmakers did not respond to Bloomberg for comment.

Along with drugmakers, the committee has asked questions of about 10 other groups, including doctors and hospitals, and also demanded the White House supply information on negotiations between the health industry and Democrats, Bloomberg writes, adding the request has been rebuffed. “This is not a beef with anyone in the industry. I’m perfectly OK that they went to the White House and advocated on behalf of the industry, that’s part of the way things are done,” Burgess tells Bloomberg. “What I’ve got a problem with is the door being closed to the rest of us.”

The pharmaceutical industry, you may recall, has shifted from its traditionally close relationship with Republicans, who uniformly opposed health care reform. About 54 percent of industry political donations in the first quarter of 2012 went to Republicans, down from a 74 percent share in 2002, Bloomberg writes. PhRMA argues that drugmakers are giving up $100 billion over a decade to help fund the reform, and remain worried profits will be used by the federal government to fund health legislation that may result from a Supreme Court review that negates the law, the news service notes.

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