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Report: Pharmaceutical Industry Funding Influences Lawmakers in Contentious Medicare Part B Reform Battle

U.S. Representatives Who Sided with Big Pharma Received 82 Percent More Contributions From Industry for 2016 Election Campaigns


Members of the U.S. House of Representatives who sided with the pharmaceutical industry in an ongoing lobbying fight over Medicare reforms received 82 percent more in campaign contributions for the 2016 election cycle than members who did not side with the industry, according to a new Public Citizen report.

The report, "Pharma's Orders," sheds light on the role of money in politics in the ongoing debate surrounding the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) proposed Medicare Part B demonstration project. The project is intended to reduce costs to taxpayers and patients by decreasing doctors' incentive to administer the most expensive products provided under Medicare Part B.

The pharmaceutical industry strongly opposes the project. In Congress, 240 Republican and four Democratic representatives signed a letter to CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt voicing opposition to the project. Separately, 66 Democratic representatives signed a letter strongly critical of the project.

According to campaign finance data obtained from the Center for Responsive Politics, members of the House so far reported a total of $9,535,672 in contributions from the pharmaceutical / health products industry during the 2015-2016 election cycle. The letter-signers raked in a combined $7,236,806 in pharmaceutical / health products industry contributions for their 2016 campaigns, averaging $23,344 per representative.

In contrast, the 124 rank-and-file representatives (119 Democrats, five Republicans)* who did not sign either letter got a combined $1,585,857 in pharmaceutical / health products industry contributions for their 2016 campaigns, averaging $12,789 per representative.

"Our findings illustrate a revealing pattern: Representatives who side with the drug industry collected much more in campaign contributions from the industry," said Rick Claypool, a Public Citizen research director. "This correlation raises serious questions about whose interests our elected representatives are serving."

"Reducing incentives for doctors to prescribe more costly drugs is a no-brainer," said Public Citizen President Robert Weissman. "The finding that congressional opponents and critics of this project receive almost twice as much in campaign contributions as other members of Congress suggests the real motivation of opponents."

*Note: Because members of congressional leadership rarely sign on to lobby letters, this analysis does not include former House Speaker John Boehner, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people - not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.

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