The current controversy about Mylan Pharmaceutical prompts the question: How much did the company’s financial success come about with substantial help from Congress and the federal government?
Is this yet another example of the US “Enron Economy” — in which certain businesses win legislative changes that unfairly grease the wheels against their competitors? Then, of course, the company/industry predictably becomes a substantial contributor to its “friends” in Congress or state governments.
Recall that Enron Corp. ran a formidable lobbying machine in Washington and state capitals, gaining favorable treatment from Congress, federal and state governments, as well as regulatory agencies. Enron used its influence to win scores of legislative and oversight decisions from the late 1980s until the company’s bankruptcy in December 2001, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
Is Mylan yet another self-sustaining lobbying/election enterprise, paying and electing politicians to reduce its risk in the US marketplace?
Enron and its employees were the largest donor to US President George W. Bush over the entire course of his political career. Its successful efforts to elect favored politicians and deregulate electricity and natural gas markets paved the way to its rise, leading some observers to wonder whether that was its actual mission — whether Enron was actually a self-sustaining lobbying/election enterprise, paying and electing politicians to reduce its risk in the US marketplace.
Not unlike historic subsidies and deregulation “favors” to coal companies in Appalachian states, to corn/agribusinesses in the Midwest, to private prison firms, and weapons manufacturers nationwide — all at the expense of better public schools, fair/safe employment, public safety, healthy food, clean water and clean air…. (I wrote a novel about this.)
Mylan Pharmaceutical CEO Heather Manchin Bresch is facing public criticism for her company’s decision to dramatically raise the cost of its product, EpiPen, an easy-to-apply emergency dose of epinephrine against allergic reactions. Bresch became president of Mylan in 2009, when EpiPens cost $103.50. The price is $608.61 today. The cost of drugs has become the issue.
Aside from the cost, however, one wonders how much of the company’s financial success rests solely on its product(s) — and how much by supporting state and federal lawmakers who pass bills that benefit them?
In 2002, Bresch was the company’s chief lobbyist, a position she almost certainly won due to the influence of her politician father, US Senator Joe Manchin.
As Mylan’s chief lobbyist, Bresch contributed to the Medicare prescription drug bill of 2003, which barred the US government insurance provider from bargaining with drug companies over prices. According to a fascinating story in The Intercept, Bresch was also key to the passage of the 2012 Generic Drug User Fee Act, which increased inspections of foreign facilities making drugs for the U.S. market. (The bill made it more difficult for foreign drug-makers to sell their products in the US, eliminating many of Mylan’s competitors, the story says.)
Finally, in 2013, Congress passed HR 2094, a law prioritizing grant money for schools to stock Mylan’s product against child-health emergencies caused by severe allergy attacks. Some states reportedly require EpiPens in their schools, including West Virginia, where Gayle Manchin, Heather Bresch’s mother, was head of the Board of Education when the policy went into effect.
Introduced by Rep. Roe, David P. (R-TN), HR 2094 had many co-sponsors, including David B. McKinley (R-WV), who has received campaign donations from Mylan. Sen. Manchin says he understands and shares concerns about drug prices.
This is not the first pharmaceutical scandal to hit West Virginia or Sen. Manchin, who has also received substantial campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry, including Mylan. Having suffered from a reported epidemic of “pill mills,” the state currently has the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation.
It is jaw-dropping to see how legislators and government officials benefit financially from companies in the drug industry, then routinely clear the path for their growing profits at the expense of those who can least afford it.