Pharma’s market


They’re the Senate’s most prominent pill pushers. As the New York Times
reported Saturday, Amgen, the biggest dealer on the biotech playground, persuaded the Senate Finance Committee to insert language delaying pricing regulations on its profitable dialysis drug Sensipar into the “fiscal bluff” bill passed earlier this month. The Times noted:

Amgen, whose headquarters is near Los Angeles and which had $15.6 billion in revenue in 2011, has a deep bench of Washington lobbyists that includes Jeff Forbes, the former chief of staff to Mr. Baucus; Hunter Bates, the former chief of staff for Mr. McConnell; and Tony Podesta, whose fast-growing lobbying firm has unusually close ties to the White House.

Amgen’s employees and political action committee have distributed nearly $5 million in contributions to political candidates and committees since 2007, including $67,750 to Mr. Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman, and $59,000 to Mr. Hatch, the committee’s ranking Republican. They gave an additional $73,000 to Mr. McConnell, some of it at a fund-raising event for him that it helped sponsor in December while the debate over the fiscal legislation was under way. More than $141,000 has also gone from Amgen employees to President Obama’s campaigns.

These links — this network of corporate donors and prominent politicians — are precisely the sort of connections I want to analyze on this site. The donations, for example, are publicly recorded. A search on for Amgen’s contributions to federal candidates in 2012 lists a quarter million dollars of donations to Senators: $118,500 to Senate Democrats and $131,500 to Senate Republicans. House members received nearly three quarters of a million dollars, $327,000 to Democrats and $395,500 to Republicans. Contributions to political action committees were also relatively even-handed: $30,000 a piece to the Democratic and Republican campaign committees for both the House and Senate, as well as $20,000 to the New Democrat Coalition and $15,000 to Congressional Trust 2010, a Republican campaign committee, among many, many other groups.

Over the 2007-2012 campaign cycle, Amgen was the fourth largest donor to Max Baucus, giving him $67,750. (The HMO Aetna was his largest, with $96,750; pharmaceutical giant Merck his third largest, with $67,900.) With $59,000, it ranked seventh among fellow finance committee chair Orrin Hatch’s patrons. (First was Fresenius Medical Care with $89,800; second Blue Cross/Blue Shield with $78,500. Fresenius Medical Care specializes in renal dialysis supplies, whereas Amgen makes dialysis pills.) Other Senate Finance Committee members with significant Amgen donations during that period were Mike Crapo ($44,500; his fifth largest donor), Pat Roberts ($40,350; his fourth largest), Mike Enzi ($39,500; his third largest), and Tom Carper ($35,500 ; his 14th largest.)

As John Godfrey Saxe said, “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.” And with a sausage fest like the US Congress, greater examination can only lead to dismaying revelations.

Pill clip art courtesy of

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