Santa Monica, CA — Representative Billy Tauzin (R-LA), a key architect along with the Bush Administration of the 2003 Medicare drug law that guaranteed a huge financial windfall for drug manufacturers by banning bulk discounts, should be banned for life from lobbying Congress and the President on prescription drug related issues, according to the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). Tauzin, retiring from Congress, announced this week that he will now lead the nation’s most powerful drug industry lobbying association, a position thought to pay a $2 million a year salary.
“Tauzin and his cohorts used the Medicare drug law to reward drug company contributors and feather their own nest at the expense of patients,” said Jerry Flanagan of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights. “It is obscene that Tauzin used his political position to leverage a $2 million a year salary when 1 out of 4 seniors cannot afford their prescription drugs. Politicians should not be allowed to exploit their public duty for personal enrichment.”
Existing law requires only a 1 year “cooling off period” before ex-members of Congress may lobby their former colleagues. This provision encourages elected officials to design policies in order to win the favor of powerful special interests groups offering huge paydays, according to FTCR.
The 2003 Medicare drug law, whose creation Tauzin presided over as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, banned the 41 million member Medicare program from negotiating bulk drug discounts with pharmaceutical companies. Bulk purchasing, vehemently opposed by the drug industry because it requires them to negotiate fair prices, has been used by the U.S. Department of Veterans affairs, representing 39 million veterans, to negotiate discounts of 50% and more off the price of prescription medications. Many countries, like Canada, Ireland and England, and large public and private purchasers like the California Public Employees Retirement System (CALPERS) and big business associations use similar strategies to save money on drug purchases.
“There is absolutely no reason to ban Medicare from using this market-friendly strategy to help seniors afford their medications other than to win favor with the pharmaceutical industry,” said Flanagan.
President Bush and Representative Tauzin opposed bulk purchasing in the Medicare drug legislation signed into law in 2003. President Bush has received $786,262 in campaign contributions from the drug industry.
To dramatize the potential savings of U.S. bulk purchasing program open to all 300 million residents, FTCR chartered two recent train trips to Canada with seniors and other patients to purchase lower cost prescription drugs. Participants of the Rx Express train trips saved 60% off U.S. prices in Canada for the same medications. To read more about the Rx Express train trips go to: http://www.RxExpressCanada.org
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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is a nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization. For more information, visit us on the web at http://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org