Public Interest Groups Call For Corruption Investigation Into Prescription Drug Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With recent attention focused on lobbying reform in Congress, two public interest groups today called for an investigation into how former Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., now head of the drug manufacturing companies’ lobby in Washington, inserted language into the drug benefit bill to help big drug companies while he was negotiating to land a $2 million per year job as president of PhRMA.

Rep. Marion Berry, D-Ark., who served with Rep. Tauzin on the Medicare Conference Committee, joined leaders from the two groups – the Campaign for American’s Future and Americans United – on a conference call with reporters today to discuss a new report of scandals surrounding the Medicare Part D prescription drug program.

The Campaign for America’s Future released a report today that chronicles how Rep. Tauzin, R-La., former chair of the Congressional committee overseeing the passage of Part D, worked hard to prohibit Medicare from negotiating with drug companies to achieve lower prices for seniors.

“The Republican leaders on the committee paid more attention to the pharmaceutical and insurance companies who contributed millions of dollars to their campaigns than the needs of our seniors,” said Rep. Berry. “There were even times when these leaders shut my Democratic colleagues and I out of the room during critical moments in this debate.”

Campaign for America’s Future co-director Roger Hickey joined Rep. Berry to release the report on today’s call, noting that the failure to negotiate prices cost Part D an extra $80 billion annually.

“Part D took billions of tax dollars that could have provided a comprehensive, guaranteed senior citizen drug benefit and put them into the pockets of the pharmaceutical companies,” said Hickey. “The consequences of his misconduct dwarfs villains like Cunningham and Abramoff.”
 
American’s United communications director Brad Woodhouse also joined Rep. Berry and Hickey on today’s call. Woodhouse called Part D a “sell-out to pharmaceutical manufacturers.”

“Part D prohibits Medicare from using its bulk-buying power to negotiate lower drug prices and denies senior citizens the choice of a prescription drug benefit direct from Medicare,” said Woodhouse. “Part D is better for industry than it is for pharmacists, senior citizens or patients.”
 
Today’s report examines the drug companies’ $87 million in federal campaign contributions between 1998 and 2005, including $1.5 million to George Bush. Fully 69 percent of industry contributions went to Republicans. Tauzin himself received $218,000 in drug money between 1989 and his departure.
 
Former Medicare chief Thomas Scully also receives scrutiny in the report. Scully received an “ethics waiver” from the Bush administration permitting him to hunt for his next job while actively negotiating Part D on behalf of the administration. He immediately left the administration to become a health industry lobbyist.

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**NOTE: An electronic copy of today’s report is available here.**