August 29, 2019/Press

NEW REPORT: Senator Tillis Has Taken More Money from Big Pharma than Any Republican Senator Running in 2020

Raleigh – Senator Thom Tillis received more money so far this election cycle from the pharmaceutical industry than any other Republican incumbent, raking in $102,000 in the first six months of 2019 alone according to a new report from Kaiser Health News. That’s more than double what he took in the entire 2018 cycle and nearly four times as much in the entire 2016 cycle, according to OpenSecrets.

Last month, a report in the Boston Globe’s STAT News detailed how Tillis has been met with a “showering of love” from the pharmaceutical industry, and is at the center of their “new strategy” and led the charge “not to upend the industry’s business model.”

Tillis has even “pressured” another Republican Senator to “significantly rework” their own legislation at Big Pharma’s behest, and was one of just six Republican Senators on the Judiciary Committee to vote against the CREATES Act, a bipartisan bill to make it easier for generic drug manufacturers to combat brand name pharmaceutical company tactics to slow the approval of their drugs.

“More than any other Republican Senator in the country who’s on the ballot in 2020, Senator Tillis is in the pocket of big drug companies and appears to be carrying their water,” NCDP spokesman Robert Howard said. “The costs of life-saving medications have skyrocketed, but Senator Tillis is cozying up to and courting the big money pharmaceutical special interests rather than working to lower costs for hardworking North Carolina families.”

Kaiser Health News: Pharma cash donations target ‘vulnerable’ lawmakers as industry tries to defend itself
By Emmarie Huetteman, Jay Hancock and Elizabeth Lucas
August 26, 2019

Key Points:

  • In the heat of the most ferocious battle over drug prices in years, pharmaceutical companies are showering U.S. senators with campaign cash as sweeping legislation heads toward the floor.
  • “If the Senate flips” to Democrats, “then PhRMA’s probably going to have to double its budget,” said Kent Cooper, a former Federal Election Commission official who has tracked political money for decades, referring to the industry’s biggest lobbying group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
  • Several senators facing tough reelection campaigns have raked in tens of thousands of dollars this year, with some collecting much more than the industry has given them in the past decade, if ever.
  • The biggest single beneficiaries were Sens. Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, and Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, who took in a whopping $103,000 and $102,000 respectively in the first six months of the year. Tillis and Coons, the leaders of a Senate subcommittee on intellectual property, have been working on legislation to overhaul the patent system – perhaps the most powerful tool brand-name drugmakers have to keep prices, and profits, high.
  • Drugmaker PACs typically give to most members of Congress, regardless of party. But with Democrats pushing some of the most aggressive proposals to regulate drugmakers, the industry may stand to lose more ground should Democrats regain control of Congress – and political experts say that is a possibility. Democrats are likely to make drug prices a key campaign issue.
  • Drug prices have been among Americans’ top concerns for years. Large, bipartisan majorities favor policies to control drug costs, including importing drugs from Canada and government negotiations to lower prices paid by Medicare.
  • Prescription prices remain far higher in the U.S. than in other wealthy countries. Prices for hospital medicines continue to rise. High-deductible health plans have increased the number of patients who feel the drug-price sting directly before insurance kicks in.

STAT News: How pharma, under attack from all sides, keeps winning in Washington
By Nicholas Florko and Lev Facher
July 16, 2019

Key Points:

  • The pharmaceutical industry is still winning in Washington.
  • To pick their way through the policy minefield, drug makers have successfully deployed dozens of lobbyists and devoted record-breaking sums to their federal advocacy efforts. But there is also a seemingly new strategy in play: industry CEOs have targeted their campaign donations this year on a pair of vulnerable Republican lawmakers — and then called on them not to upend the industry’s business model.
  • On Valentine’s Day, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) enjoyed a showering of love that is familiar in Washington: a flood of campaign contributions, many at the federal limit of $2,800 for a candidate or $5,000 for an affiliated political committee.
  • One donation came from Pfizer’s CEO, Albert Bourla, who donated $5,000 to Tillis and another $10,000 to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and associated campaign committees. Another came from Kenneth Frazier, the top executive at Merck. The Tillis campaign committee eventually cashed checks from CEOs and other high-ranking executives at those companies as well as Amgen, Eli Lilly, Sanofi, and Bristol Myers-Squibb, plus two high-ranking officials at the advocacy group PhRMA. Six lobbyists at one firm that works with PhRMA, BGR, also combined to contribute $100,000 to a bevy of Republican lawmakers and the party’s campaign arms.
  • Tillis raised an additional $64,500 from drug industry political action committees in the past quarter, according to disclosures released on Monday.
  • Tills was one of few individual lawmakers — in many cases, the only one — to whom the executives had written personal checks during the current election cycle. While drug industry CEOs frequently contribute to political committees for congressional leadership, the breadth of executives who donated Tillis specifically is notable, particularly considering his outspoken role on pharmaceutical industry issues.
  • The same PhRMA PAC that donated to Tillis has given generously in recent years: nearly $200,000 in the 2018 campaign cycle, roughly 58% of which was targeted toward Republicans. Drug industry PACs donated $10.3 million in total in that cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The figure two years before was even higher: a total of $12.2 million from industry-aligned PACs alone.
  • Pharma sprung into action. They recruited congressional allies, including Tillis, to pressure Cornyn to significantly rework the bill, and they succeeded. The version of the bill that eventually cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee was stripped of language that would have empowered the Federal Trade Commission to go after patent thicketing. Instead, the bill limited how many patents a drug maker could assert in a patent lawsuit.
  • The new version of the bill lost “a lot of teeth” and “solves a narrower problem in a narrow way,” advocates told STAT when the change was first introduced.
  • A week ago, the industry struck its biggest blow yet. Three of the country’s largest pharmaceutical companies —Amgen, Eli Lilly, and Merck — prevailed in a lawsuit to strike down a Trump administration requirement that they disclose list prices in television advertisements.