Hillary Wants to Kill Me
Like millions of other Americans, I suffer from a life-threatening illness. My disease is incurable, but its progression is slow. I have lived with it for years while hoping for the breakthrough drug that will cure or further slow it. I just wish all those running for president were as concerned about new drug development as I am.
As one of the 15 million Americans suffering from cancer – not to mention hundreds of other life-threatening diseases – I would expect presidential candidates to support research into new life-saving drugs. Most of this research is funded by drug companies, whose motive, in large part, is profit. Hillary Clinton seems to think that the profit motive is somehow immoral, except in the case of her own and her husband's lucrative speechmaking and book sales. She thinks the profits of drug companies are "obscene," even as she enjoys a family net worth of $111 million.
A special target of Hillary's attacks during the presidential campaign is the pharmaceutical industry. A plan she released in September would limit drug prices by allowing Medicare negotiated prices, capping out-of-pocket expenses, cutting the period of patent exclusivity from 12 to 7 years, and allowing importations from Canada. That plan would prove a windfall to insurance companies (major contributors to the Clinton Foundation), but inevitably it would reduce spending for new therapies. And, most important, it would do nothing to remove obstacles that government itself puts in the way of new drug research.
As Chris Ford wrote in Fortune magazine, Hillary's plan would seriously undermine the business model of biotech start-ups – those same companies that are responsible for half of breakthrough medicines. Huge investments over decades are required to bring new drugs to market. Hillary would limit the profitability of these drugs and so reduce new investment and reinvestment of profits in new drug development. As Ford points out, "the idea of systemic, extensive profitability in the pharma industry is an accounting illusion." U.S. accounting rules do not allow companies to reflect the enormous costs ($2 billion on average) of new drug development.
Again and again, Clinton has singled out pharmaceutical companies for what she terms "profiteering." Yet during 2014, the last year for which records are available, drug prices rose only 5.5% – not an unreasonable premium considering the innovative treatments that have come to market. Many of those drugs are saving consumers money by avoiding more costly hospital stays or long-term care, not to speak of extending lives and preventing suffering.
In her rush to demagogue the issue, Hillary appears not to care. Drug companies, she roars, are making too much money. Her view seems to be that money earned in the private sector is money that properly belongs to government. In the world she envisions, government would force companies to operate more or less as state-run enterprises along the lines of the state-run oil company Petrobras in Brazil. Those who have followed the recent scandal rocking the leftist regime of Dilma Rousseff know how that turned out. Hillary is not at all different from Rousseff or any other leftist who seeks centralized control of the economy.
I don't expect Hillary Clinton to put the interests of those who are suffering ahead of her own political ambitions. Has she ever? Not in her "wronged woman" charade following the Lewinsky affair, nor in her "blame the video" cover-up following Benghazi. Not in her dodging over approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which shut 100,000 workers out of high-paying jobs. Nor in her apparent disdain for the rules in regard to protecting and preserving government documents.
If Hillary were a statesmanlike leader instead of a ruthless pol, she would support pharmaceutical companies in the work they are doing by finding ways to cut development costs for new drugs. She would be pointing the finger at government with its costly regulations and inordinate delays, not at private corporations.
At the very least, she would be a cheerleader for the 21st Century Cures Act, passed in the House in July. The bill would reform FDA approval processes for new drugs and increase spending on research by $1.75 billion. Most important, by streamlining FDA approval of new treatments and medical devices, the bill would help to bring life-saving therapies to market more quickly.
While the Cures Act passed the House with bipartisan support, it faces opposition from Democrats in the Senate. According to one report, Democrats are crafting a "weak" version that would not include FDA reforms included in the Cures Act.
Where is Hillary on the Cures Act? I can find no evidence that she has taken a position on this life-saving bill. That might have something to do with the fact that it is opposed by a number of well-funded progressive groups such as Public Citizen, not to mention benefit managers and the American Hospital Association. Those same insurance companies that oppose the Cures Act have been major contributors to the Clinton Foundation.
No Democrat has ever supported legislation that would diminish government power, and the 21st Century Cures Act would do just that, by mandating alternatives to lengthy FDA clinical trials and funding innovative research outside conventional government control. Pressure from Hillary Clinton would make passage of the Cures Act more likely, but Hillary is the same Artful Dodger on this bill as she has been on every other issue.
One would hope that Hillary might depart from her obscene profits script and make an exception in this case, but she seems just as hostile toward Big Pharma as she is toward Big Oil (which has never been a source of obscene profits, either – not over the full course of the commodities cycle). Don't the lives of those who pray every night for a miracle cure deserve some consideration?
Apparently not if you see a short-term advantage in attacking pharmaceutical companies. There are some politicians who will do anything, throw anyone under the bus, speak any untruth, to gain what they desire. Based on her statements on the issue of drug pricing, I believe that Hillary is one of these.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture, including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).