5 of the largest US pharma firms totaled $80 billion in profits, but millions of Americans can’t afford medicine
There is a lot of discussion about how “divided” our nation is and, on many issues, that is absolutely true. But on one of the most important matters facing our country the American people – Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Progressives, Conservatives – could not be more united. And that is the need to take on the unprecedented corporate greed of the pharmaceutical industry and to substantially lower the outrageously high price of prescription drugs.
Today, millions of Americans are making the unacceptable choice between feeding their families or buying the medicine they need. Seniors from Vermont to Alaska are forced to split pills in half and many have died because they did not have enough money to fill their prescriptions.
All over this country, the American people are asking why it is that they pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs?
Why is it that nearly one out of every four adults in America cannot afford their prescription medication?
Why do nearly half of all new drugs in the United States cost more than $150,000 a year?
Several years ago, I took a busload of people with diabetes from Detroit, Michigan, to a drugstore in Windsor, Ontario. There, they were able to purchase the same insulin products they bought in the United States for one-tenth the price.
How is it that in Canada and other major countries the same medications manufactured by the same companies, sold in the same bottles are available for a fraction of the price that we pay in the United States?
The answers can be summed up in three words: Follow the money.
Over the past 25 years, the pharmaceutical industry has spent $8.5 billion on lobbying and over $745 million on campaign contributions to buy politicians. Incredibly, last year, the drug companies hired over 1,700 lobbyists including the former congressional leaders of both major political parties – over 3 pharmaceutical industry lobbyists for every Member of Congress.
The situation has become so absurd that Pfizer donated a million dollars to the Republican Party in Kentucky to expand its headquarters named after Senator Mitch McConnell, after Pfizer increased its profits by 140% in 2021 to $22 billion.
Meanwhile, as Americans die because they cannot afford the medications they need, five of the largest drug companies in the U.S. made nearly $80 billion in profits last year (a 104% increase from the previous year) while the CEOs of just 13 pharmaceutical companies made over $1 billion in total compensation in 2021.
Over the past decade, 14 major pharmaceutical companies spent $747 billion not to make life-saving drugs more affordable, but to make their wealthy shareholders richer by buying back their own stock and handing out huge dividends – a sum that is $87 billion more than what they spent on research and development.