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For Immediate Release

Jack Pfeiffer, 202-641-8574,

Press Release

Big Pharma's Tax Cuts Going To Wealthy – Zero To Patients, Little To Workers

Tax savings are enriching wealthy shareholders, not raising wages or lowering prices.

A new report released today by Americans for Tax Fairness, shows that America’s 10 biggest prescription-drug corporations—the Pharma Big 10—are among the biggest winners from the $1.9 trillion Trump-GOP tax cuts, but they are sharing few of the benefits with their employees and are offering no price relief to their customers. Instead, they are mostly rewarding their CEOs and other wealthy shareholders with fat stock buybacks and dividend hikes.

“President Trump and Congressional Republicans promised their massive tax cut would deliver big pay hikes to America’s workers, but prescription drug companies are dispensing nothing more than a bitter pill to swallow,” said Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness. “Big Pharma is racking up billions in tax breaks but sharing little with its workers and nothing with consumers by cutting prices. Working Americans are sick of Big Pharma raking in record profits by price gouging patients. Giving them massive tax cuts on top of that bad behavior is an outrage.”

Following is a summary of the findings from BAD MEDICINE: How GOP Tax Cuts Are Enriching Drug Companies, Leaving Workers & Patients Behind:


  • Five of the Pharma Big 10 (the only corporations for which tax cut estimates have been publicly released) could save more than $6.3 billion in taxes in 2018 alone.
  • The Pharma Big 10 will save $76 billion in taxes on their offshore profits alone. The 10 firms had $506 billion in untaxed profits offshore in 2017, on which they owed nearly $134 billion under previous law. Under the Trump-GOP tax regime they will owe only about $57 billion—a tax savings of $76 billion—and they can stretch their tax payments over eight years.


  • Only two of the Pharma Big 10, Pfizer and Merck, have announced any quantifiable sharing of tax savings with existing employees through bonuses, wage hikes or fringe benefit improvements. They are providing one-time bonuses worth a total of $169 million. The industry’s estimated $6.3 billion in 2018 tax cuts is 37 times more than what drug companies are giving workers. (AbbVie has announced it would “enhance compensation” but offered no details.)
  • None of the other seven corporations—Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Gilead Sciences, Amgen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene and Biogen—has announced plans to share their tax-cut wealth with employees. However, many of these “Corporate Cheapskates” are doing share buybacks that will primarily benefit the wealthy, including their own CEOs.  
  • The Pharma Big 10’s CEOs received total compensation in 2017 that ranged from 94 to 452 times what the typical worker received. For most of the companies, the CEO made over 100 times more than the typical worker; Johnson & Johnson’s CEO made 452 times more.
  • Unlike utility companies, none of the Pharma Big 10 has announced any plans to use their tax savings to reduce prescription drug prices despite huge price hikes in recent years. An AARP analysis found that the prices of 268 brand name drugs increased at least 15% a year from 2013 to 2015, the most recent data available. A recent ATF report found retail prices for a sample of leading American drugs had soared by 40% to 70%, or up to 14 times the rate of inflation, between 2011-2015. ATF found that over that same period profits for the Pharma Big 10 rose by almost 40%.


  • Five Pharma Big 10 firms have announced a total of $45 billion in stock buybacks since late 2017. That’s 266 times more than the $169 million in announced worker bonuses. Stock buybacks overwhelmingly benefit wealthy shareholders, including top executives and foreign investors.
  • Pfizer is getting a nearly $1.1 billion tax cut, which is 11 times more than the $100 million in one-time worker bonuses it attributes to the new tax law. Its tax rate will be just 17% in 2018. Pfizer has authorized spending $10 billion on stock buybacks this year—100 times more than it is sharing in bonuses—and raised its dividend by 6%.
  • Merck promised employees one-time bonuses estimated at $69 million, but it’s receiving 39 times more in tax cuts—$2.7 billion—in 2018 alone. The company is also buying back $10 billion in stock—145 times more than it is spending on bonuses.
  • AbbVie’s estimated tax cut is $1.3 billion in 2018—its resulting tax rate will be just 9%, lower than that of many working families. While AbbVie has said it will “enhance non-executive employee compensation,” it has not said by how much or for how many workers.


Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) is a diverse campaign of more than 420 national, state and local endorsing organizations united in support of a fair tax system that works for all Americans. It has come together based on the belief that the country needs comprehensive, progressive tax reform that results in greater revenue to meet our growing needs. This requires big corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes, not to live by their own set of rules. 

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