Big Pharma Feels the Bern

Ever since Reagan, conservatives have been telling us about welfare queens.

The way they put it, there are thousands of undeserving poor people in this country right now bilking taxpayers for all they’re worth all while you and me are sweating out a hard day’s work.

And here’s the thing: conservatives are right.

There ARE a lot of undeserving people getting rich off the commons and the working class.

But they’re not the poor (and probably black) welfare queens of popular conservative mythology -- far from it.

America’s REAL welfare queens are the corporations and corporate executives who, with the help of sellout Republicans, have turned our economy and tax system into their very own get-rich-quick-scheme.

Case in point: Big Pharma.

While big drug companies like to talk about how cutting edge they are, they really don’t do very much innovation at all.

They leave that to taxpayer-funded government scientists.

As a recent piece in the Los Angeles Times pointed out, “75% of so-called new molecular entities with priority rating (the most innovative drugs) trace their existence to NIH funding [the National Institutes of Health], while companies spend more on ‘me too’ drugs (slight variations of existing ones.)”

And, while there is a strong argument to be made against private corporations getting a free ride off taxpayer-funded research, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this situation.

This is what governments do and have been doing for much of the last century -- they fill in the holes in the marketplace and create incentive structures that wouldn’t otherwise exist.

But what makes Big Pharma’s dependence on public research so offensive is the fact it uses that public research to manufacture drugs that it then sells at absurdly high and often unaffordable prices.

And that’s not even the worst part.

After these giant drug companies make all that money from selling drugs invented by taxpayer-funded research, they then stash that money overseas to avoid paying taxes on it . In other words, instead of paying taxpayers back for helping them get rich, pharmaceutical companies rip them off

According to Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the worst offenders is Gilead Sciences, which sells a drug called Sovaldi.

Developed in large part through taxpayer subsidies to a much smaller drug company that Gilead later bought out, Sovaldi treats Hepatitis C.

It’s also one of the most expensive drugs around. One pill costs an eye-popping $1,000 and a full treatment costs around $84,000.

Although this is great news for Gilead’s profits, it’s very, very bad news for Hepatitis C patients -- the people who actually need Sovaldi to survive.

As Senators Sanders points out in a new editorial about this very issue, “Patients with hepatitis C are often low-income and a disproportionate number of them are veterans. Yet many Medicaid programs have had to limit access to the drug, and despite spending literally billions of dollars on the new hepatitis C drugs, the Department of Veterans Affairs initially struggled to provide the medication to every veteran who needed it.”

The fact that people are struggling to get the medicine they need because some Big Pharma executive wants to buy a new yacht is bad enough, but as Sanders goes on to point out, what’s really obnoxious about Gilead is that, like many other pharmaceutical companies, it’s a serial tax dodger.

Sanders notes that new studies show that Gilead has skipped out on paying as much as $10 billion in taxes.

How is that possible!?

It’s possible because the American tax system is one big Swiss cheese wedge of loopholes and carve-outs, especially if you’re a big corporation.

The big picture here is outrageous.


Johnnie Dorman's picture
Johnnie Dorman 6 years 45 weeks ago

And why does big pharma get away with tax dodging and price gouging? The Neo-con right wingers, that's why. So good will be the day when the Neo-con filled Repubican party is finally punished for their traitorism.

Lloyd Lutterman's picture
Lloyd Lutterman 6 years 45 weeks ago

Mention stock holders, your neighbors, profiting from these corporate welfare queens from the taxpayers' buck

dianhow 6 years 45 weeks ago

Thank s to millions of ignorant, hateful ' poorly educated' GOP voters & Fox & pals for the gov't we have. Party of Lincoln & Eisenhower is DEAD ! Today Eisenhower would be considered a ' flaming liberal' IKE was Last decent GOP President who did not screw the middle class, push cuts in education, cut wages, cut the disabled, suck up to corps ...Ike was a General who warned of 'War profiteeris' aka ' Military Industrial Complex' Bush Cheney wars inc ' everything ' weapons , war contractors like Cheneys Halliburton who made a ' killing; on Iraq war, bombs, tanks, planes, Caring for our injured vets & families, dealing with ISIS , TARP, 2008 global crash - loss of 700 K jobs a month in 2008 alone costs taxpayers many 30 trillions. Get the facts Rush Hannity & hacks , Drudge , Savage, 600 right wing radio talk shows do NOT inform or discuss FACTS Opinion ,smears, hate, anger, blame. GOP takes responsibility for NOTHING .. trickle down Iran contra, cuts in SS , wasting billions shutting down gov't...and endless fruitless ' investigations' blocking, lying, arrogantly refusing to even take a damn vote / hearing on a new Supreme court judge. .GOP does NOT represent WE the People - They are NOT public servants ' they are the ruling class / our Lords . 90 % of politicians get wealthy, on our dime, get great penions, bribes, keep tons of campaign cash, make millions just to speak even Bush who has little of value to say . They ignore our wishes time and again, GOP wages wars we do not need or want. Bush Cheney lies... smoking gun, mushroom cloud, weapons of mass destrruction.... GOP policies are Destructive to workers, fair wages, women, birth control, education, trickle down, cozing up to dictators like Shah of Iran Read your damn history prople

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 6 years 45 weeks ago

1) Just stop the lobby influence

Why does a democracy need to be lobbied???

A lousy american notion

2) Just get money out of politics

Another lousy american idea

ChristopehrCurrie's picture
ChristopehrCurrie 6 years 45 weeks ago

The Big Pharma taxpayer ripoff phenominum is about to get a whole lot WORSE!

The old accusations about Hillary aren’t what ‘s seriously concerning us now.

If Hillary gets elected President and implements President Obama's dishonestly promoted TPP/TTIP/TiSA rigged (and unconstitutional) "trade agreements" (as her Democratic Party Platform delegates indicated last week that she is planning to do), then those so-called "trade agreements" would authorize multinational corporations to "legally" engage in MASSIVE FRAUD and EXTORTION-RACKET activities that would override (wipe out) our consumer protections, environmental protections, worker protections, union protections, food safety protections, equal rights protections, etc. as well as our Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security Programs, etc. This will cause IMMENSE DAMAGE to the livelihoods and wellbeing of most Americans for generations to come! In fact, this is the most dangerous threat to our “national security” since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and it will be perpetrated by our “best politicians money can buy.”

Tom Dorricott's picture
Tom Dorricott 6 years 45 weeks ago

This problem is a peoblem of both Republicans and Democrats. At the very least, there should be a law mandating any drug company that benefits from subsidized research must not sell non-generic drugs to other nations or entities at prices less that what we pay for them in the US. It galls me that other nations can buy needed drugs for their citizens at a fraction of what we have to pay for them. This could help stop some of the abuse.

Howard Laverne Stewart's picture
Howard Laverne ... 6 years 45 weeks ago

It seems like Health Insurance companies would fight this price gouging of pharmaceuticals and all other healthcare exploitation

demandside's picture
demandside 6 years 45 weeks ago

Big Pharma and private insurance companies posted a 400% increase in profits over the past 30 years while government like the media dropped the ball and made obliviousness or indifference into absolutes. Indifference is really love's enemy.

Tom Frank in "Listen, liberal!" explains that the democratic party switched from the working class and the New Deal to a party of the creatives and innovatives who brought us indecipherable financial products. Silicon Valley is exempt from anti-trust prosecution, Silicon strategy is to get market power while labor markets (for humanities graduates) were casualized.

Bill Clinton brought new styles instead of paying homage to FDR. He deregulated Wall Street, bailed out hedge funds and put an end to the federal welfare system. Bill Clinton rammed through NAFTA and undermined his own party's greatest ally. Professionals, technocrats, corporate funders, wired workers, the creative class or the innovative class became the party's center. Saving social security meant privatizing and then came Monica! All the gains of the economic recovery have gone to the already wealthy.

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