What Sort of Deal Did Bill Clinton Cut with Big Pharma?

One of the things that’s most infuriating about arguing with mainstream media folk about why they didn’t cover a particular issue is when they smugly say "Oh yes we did" — and then point to a single, offhand reference of it buried at the bottom of a story which is mostly about something else. That’s not exactly the same as having that same story lead the evening news for weeks on end, is it?

This is what’s so bizarre about this Glenn Kessler piece in this morning’s Washington Post. The basic thrust seems to be that there’s something vaguely, in a hemi-demi-semi homeopathic sort of way, scandalous about the Big Dog, who is now a private citizen, having his private-citizen endeavor — namely, the successful rescue of two Current TV journalists who’d been wrongly imprisoned in North Korea for paid for by some of his fellow private-citizen friends. We get hundreds of words on who paid for what, and then, at the very end of the piece, Kessler abruptly switches gears to a much more interesting story:

Bill Clinton in the meantime is not resting on his laurels. His office has announced that he and "leading drug manufacturers" will make "a major announcement" in Harlem on Thursday.

Why is this interesting? Because of a New York Times story that Scarecrow discussed earlier today, concerning Blue Dog and Big Pharma tool Billy Tauzin’s effort to push through a particularly egregious giveaway to Big Pharma. As Scarecrow says:

So now the House’s original Blue Dog, Billy Tauzin, now the head of the big pharma trade group, is shaking down the White House, exposing the deal, and demanding that Rahm Emanuel keep the Congress from forcing drug manufacturers to accept Medicare negotiations or Canadian competition. And this is after the drug kings have already pressured Congress into agreeing to lengthy patent and other protections against generic drugs.

The promised savings applied only to the purchase of brand name drugs purchased by seniors in the donut hole, which Congress is trying to end. And the $80 billion in promised price reductions? That small piece of Medicare drug costs is a drop in the bucket in the nation’s total drug bill.

Are these two things connected? Hard to say at this distance. But Arkansas’ Mike Ross, a fellow Blue Dog whose state is a next-door to Billy Tauzin’s Louisiana, was until 2007 the owner of Ross Pharmacy, a company he founded, and while he technically isn’t its owner any more, he and his wife own 100% of its stock. Funny how that works. It’s not surprising that, like Tauzin, Mike Ross is doing everything he can to stop, scuttle, or weaken health care reform.

Both Bill Clinton and Al Gore have tangled with Big Pharma for many years, especially where its overseas operations are concerned. as the WaPo noted in a June 1999 editorial, their plan to help AIDS patients in South Africa was blocked by New Jersey Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen, whose district is home to much of America’s drug-company industry. This caused AIDS activists to accuse both Clinton and Gore of putting corporate profits before people’s lives. It will be interesting to see what sort of deal was cut today.

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