Big Pharma’s Reward

Pharmaceutical interests are donating big money to Kyrsten Sinema, who could block Democrats’ drug pricing negotiation plan.
Big Pharma’s Reward
AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

Pharmaceutical interests have been flooding in donations to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who has emerged as the chief roadblock to Democrats’ plan to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices.

Between July and September, Sinema raised at least $100,000 from the pharmaceutical industry and donors at a private equity firm in the business of outsourcing pharmaceutical research and development, according to her campaign finance report filed Friday.

While Sinema previously campaigned on lowering drug prices, Politico reported last month that Sinema had informed President Joe Biden that she opposes the party’s signature drug pricing initiative, which would finally allow Medicare to use its bulk purchasing power to lower prices.

Democratic leaders have planned to include the drug pricing measure, which would save the government hundreds of billions of dollars over 10 years, in the party’s $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, as a way to finance other portions of Biden’s economic, health care, and climate agenda.

According to a recent Politico newsletter, “Democrats would be lucky if they managed to convince Sinema to support a version of drug pricing reform that raises even $200 billion.”

News of Sinema’s opposition to the drug pricing legislation arrived shortly after a pharmaceutical industry front group launched a TV and radio ad campaign in Arizona praising the freshman senator for her “independence,” calling her “a bipartisan leader” in the mold of the late Sen. John McCain.

Sinema’s new federal election filing shows she raised roughly $55,000 in the third quarter from drug industry executives and political action committees.

The donors included PACs for drugmakers Abbvie, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Astellas, Eisai, Eli Lilly, EMD Serono, Horizon Pharma, Lundbeck, Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, and Takeda Pharmaceuticals.

She also received donations from executives at Abbvie, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Genentech, Gilead Sciences, Lundbeck, Merck, Otsuka, and Sage Therapeutics, and the powerful drug lobby Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Sinema additionally received about $47,000 from executives at Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe. The private equity firm owns a big stake in Abzena, a company it describes as an “outsourced research, development and manufacturing services provider to biopharmaceutical companies.”


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