Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Senator Warren's petition against a Big Pharma Bill

Following up on this post, see Senator Warren's petition to stop the 21st Century Cures Act below.
 We need to invest in medical innovation in America—and Congress has spent years negotiating a pretty decent bill. But in the final days of this Congress, that 21st Century Cures bill has been hijacked by Big Pharma and big Republican donors. And the House of Representatives is likely voting on the bill tomorrow.
Stand up to Big Pharma and vote NO on the 21st Century Cures Act until we get a better deal.
From the beginning, I've argued that that any "cures" bill must include substantial new funding for medical research (via the National Institutes of Health), or it's not going to cure anything. Democrats and Republicans had agreed that a medical innovation bill would not go forward without substantially more money for NIH, but the Cures deal has only a tiny fig leaf of funding for NIH.

21st Century Cures doesn't reduce crushing drug prices. It doesn't really expand the invention of new cures. And it doesn't increase access to lifesaving therapies.

What does it do?
  • Legalizes fraud: It's against the law for drug companies to market drugs for uses not approved by the FDA. You can't sell a headache pill as a cure for cancer. Drug companies have paid billions in penalties for "off-label marketing." Instead of following the law, they've cozied up to Congress to have the Cures bill shoot holes in it.
  • Covers up bribery: Currently, drug companies have to disclose the buckets of money, gifts, giveaways, and free trips they give doctors and hospitals as kickbacks to use certain drugs. Once again, drug companies cozied up to Congress to gut that disclosure rule, allowing any gift related to "medical education" to be exempt.
  • Hands out special deals to GOP donors: A major Republican donor to Mitch McConnell's Super PAC has big business plans to sell dangerous, unproven stem cell treatments before they have been approved by the FDA as safe and effective. Now that donor is collecting on his investment. The Cures bill creates a special deal so people can sell these treatments without meeting the FDA gold standards for protecting patient safety, undermining the integrity of the FDA and the safety of untold numbers of desperate patients.

There's another scary thing hidden in this bill: For two years, Republicans have paid lip service to our nation's opioid crisis while refusing to spend money on it. Now that Donald Trump has won the presidency, Republicans have agreed to set aside a few million dollars to address the crisis on the condition that the Trump administration will have complete control over the money once he takes office.

There's more: Medicare cuts, making life harder for people with disabilities, raiding money from the Affordable Care Act, even a gun provision—but not even a 1% increase in funding for NIH.
Not everything in the bill is bad. Republicans have included some bipartisan, noncontroversial provisions in this bill—and have declared that all of those good ideas will die, today, unless we also agree to make it easier for giant drug companies to commit fraud, give out kickbacks, and put patients' lives at risk. That's not compromise. It's extortion.
On November 8, a majority of voters supported Democratic Senate candidates, and a majority supported the Democratic presidential candidate over the Republican. The American people didn't give Democrats majority support so we could come back to Washington to roll over and play dead. They sent us here to say NO to efforts to sell Congress to the highest bidder. They sent us here to stand up for what's right.

We need to invest in medical innovation in America, but we shouldn't do it by handing over control to Big Pharma and Republican donors. Tell the House and Senate to say NO to this deal and keep fighting for a better 21st Century Cures Act.
—Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator

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