Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has already taken on Big Pharma, but he addresses the root of the problem in this video: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Dr Robert Califf, Deputy Commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco for the FDA, is currently on track to head the agency. His nomination by President Obama was blocked by none other than Bernie Sanders, though it seems as though a senate vote will see him through anyway.
“I think it was not a coincidence that last year, the pharmaceutical industry spent $250 million on lobbying and campaign contributions, and employ some 1,400 lobbyists. Do you think that, Dr. Califf, that that type of expenditure has any impact on the fact that we pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs?”
Basically, Sanders was asking if open bribery conducted by Big Pharma had anything to do with Americans paying the highest price in the world for prescription drugs. Dr. Califf replied that “the ideal situation would be that the money went into R and D to develop an adequate picture of the risk and benefits of treatment and that was made available to people.”
He chose not to directly answer the question; by vaguely asserting that the higher prices/ lobbying money(?) Americans/ drug companies(?) paid, somehow brought them better R and D somehow necessary for… well, it all boils down to this: a whole lot of obfuscation.
“Why do we pay the highest prices in the world by far for prescription drugs?” asks Sanders, attempting to corral Dr. Califf into a direct answer; however he answers again in general terms by feigning ignorance of the price of drugs, and misdirecting the issue by saying “we need to have drugs available because they save lives.” Well, duh, drugs save lives – but Sanders wasn’t even implying that drugs don’t save lives – just that the drugs were way too expensive, and were thus unavailable to those lives who needed saving!
Sanders points this out, saying “doctors have written to us, that no matter what drugs are available,their patients can’t afford them. Let me ask you this: as head of the FDA, you will oversee the import of food products… from all over the world… but somehow, we cannot re-import from Canada brand name prescription drugs.”
After more waffling by “Doctor” Califf about how importing drugs from Canada would somehow result in higher costs, to which a frustrated Sanders retorts ” this is why, precisely, the American people are paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs – it is beyond my comprehension that you are sitting here saying you can bring in vegetables and fish from all over the world… but you cannot bring in brand name drugs manufactured by the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world from a country like Canada.”
Indeed, food from all over the world would need to go through all sorts of product safety tests, yet it was somehow impossible (or extremely costly), to import the exact same drugs that were made by the exact same companies…from Canada?
Sanders ends off by describing how an ideal FDA commissioner should behave: “At the end of the day, people are dying, people are not buying the food they need because they have to pay outrageous prices for medicine, because we have been extraordinarily weak in taking on the pharmaceutical industry that is ripping off the American people… I believe we need a Commissioner who is gonna stand up to the pharmaceutical industry and protect the American consumers.”
Sources: FDA, STAT