Three of the most common investments, according to STAT, are Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Merck. And, members of Congress are allowed to hold them even when they sit on the committees that regulate these companies, the House Judiciary Committtee, which oversees patent law, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the FDA and drug regulation.
We all know about the large amount of money the drug and device companies contribute to members of Congress, with the hope that it will lead them to support legislation that maximizes their profits. (And, indeed, federal policy supports high drug prices.) But did you know that many members of Congress invest substantially in these companies? According to a STAT investigation, some 30 percent of Senators and 20 percent of House members have a stake in drug and device companies they regulate.
U.S. Representative Christopher Collins has a $5-25 million stake in a company he co-founded that makes the parts for a machine that performs diagnostic tests. So, not surprisingly, when the FDA said it wanted to regulate those tests, he objected strongly. He also appears to object both to FDA monitoring of drugs for safety and efficacy after they go to market, calling for a loosening of this oversight activity, and to the medical device tax in the Affordable Care Act.
U.S. Representative Scott Peters objects to the Innovation Act bill, which would benefit consumers by permitting more challenges to pharmaceutical company patents. It would also impose a significant cost on the drug companies. His wife is a big investor in pharmaceutical companies. The list of members with conflicts between their personal desires and their responsibilities to the public goes on and on.
With their wealth in part contingent on high returns on investment for the drug and device companies, it’s no wonder Congress has yet to pass a law that would permit Americans to import drugs from abroad, let alone to allow the negotiation of drug prices.
Here are six tips for keeping your drug costs down if you have Medicare.