By Kelly Steele of Portland, Oregon. Kelly is the communications director for the Democratic Party of Oregon.
Just four days after the latest FDA-approved multi-million dollar blockbuster drug Bextra was pulled from the market, the Republican leadership allowed a hearing on a bill that would eliminate the rights of Oregonians to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable when their drugs cause harm to Oregon consumers. HB 2743, heard this morning in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Law, would protect big drug companies from being held accountable in Oregon’s courts, as long as the drugs were approved by the FDA. HB 2743 details here (pdf)
Rewind to last year’s Republican National Convention. Linda Flores, chief sponsor of the bill, on being repeatedly wooed by big pharmaceutical companies with presentations made over expensive meals:
”Republican delegate and state Representative Linda Flores said Pfizer's sponsorship of the meals would not affect her views on prescription drug policy.” (AP, 9/1/04)
Flores, Mannix, Big Campaign Money
HB 2743 is sponsored by Linda Flores, who said the special treatment she received from big drug companies wouldn’t influence her policies when dealing with the pharmaceutical industry as a Representative in Salem. Yet now she is sponsoring legislation that exists almost exclusively to protect those same big pharmaceutical companies. Perhaps it wasn’t only the expensive meals at the RNC. Perhaps the thousands of dollars they’ve donated to her campaigns made a difference as well.
Even more interesting, Flores sponsored HB 2743 on behalf of the Oregon Litigation Fairness Project.
The lobbyist for the Oregon Litigation Fairness Project (lobbyist disclosure, pdf) is none other than Kevin L. Mannix, current Oregon GOP Chair (and Chair while Flores was GOP Vice-Chair) and current candidate for governor.
In 2002, Kevin Mannix accepted $626,000 from the Pharmaceutical & Health Products industry in his 2002 campaign for governor.
Bad Legislation, Wrong Priorities
HB 2743 does nothing to help the 780,000 Oregonians without prescription drug coverage. The only thing it helps is the pharmaceutical companies, who can no longer be held accountable if their products cause harm to Oregonians. Perhaps that is why PhRMA and GlaxoSmithKline showed up this morning to testify in favor of HB 2743.
Marybeth Healey, executive director of Oregonians for Health Security, testified against the bill this morning. HB 2743 “removes accountability and gives companies that sell products that harm Oregonians a free ride,” Healey stated. “It’s a sweeping bill that does nothing to lower health care costs, and only helps the pharmaceutical companies.”
Healey also noted that many of the recently-pulled multi-million dollar drugs, such as Vioxx and Bextra, were initially approved by the FDA. “Patients who have taken these medications as prescribed are now having adverse effects, and this legislation would ask them to pay an even higher price: no recourse,” Healey testified.
“Once again, Republicans are standing with big pharmaceutical companies against the interest of Oregonians,” said Kelly Steele, communications director for the Democratic Party of Oregon. “Democrats in Salem have advanced an agenda that holds big drug companies accountable and lowers prescription drug costs for all Oregonians. This legislation, in conjunction with the campaign contributions to its Republican backers, highlights a stark contrast for Oregonians concerned about holding big drug companies accountable.”
[Editor's note: The above photo illustration was created by BlueOregon, not the Democratic Party of Oregon.]