Cartoon of the Week: Big Pharma’s Hold on Public Health

Two years ago, I had the honor of submitting written testimony in support of the For Our Freedom amendment to a hearing of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Discourse of the House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary as one of a trio of American Promise volunteers from the healthcare professions. Framed on the basic tenet of public health, Ellen, Robbi, and I called on Congress to pass an amendment to reduce the unlimited political spending that has significantly contributed to the dysfunction of our healthcare system and the dysfunction of our democracy.

The last two years have starkly illustrated the concerns we expressed in our statement. On average, Americans pay 2.5 times more for medications than citizens in Europe as pharmaceutical company profits continued surged throughout the pandemic. Yet totals spent on industry lobbying have broken records in the last 2 years to further protect industry gains, consistently led by the Pharmaceuticals and Health Products industry group whose spending has steadily increased from $301 million in 2019 to $314 million in 2020 to $353 million in 2021. Although the catastrophic health crisis of the pandemic stressed our healthcare system and resulted in an economic crisis, legislative efforts to reduce the costs of our expensive medical care have been stymied by donations from the pharmaceutical industry, as reported by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Money in politics is about more than any one issue—it’s about how our government makes decisions on all the issues we face, and who is represented in our democracy. We all must leverage the positions we have, whether as healthcare professionals, business owners or veterans, and as American citizens, to take advantage of this election year. Let’s raise the effort to win our amendment to a top priority campaign issue by getting candidate pledges to ask candidates to represent us, not the donor class.

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