Former Sen. Russ Feingold's (D-Wis.) non-profit group, Progressives United, launched a petition Tuesday criticizing the pharmaceutical company Amgen for successfully lobbying to get a provision favoring one of its drugs, which could cost taxpayers up to $500 million, added to the "fiscal cliff" deal.
The petition calls for Amgen to give back the $500 million. "Thanks to more than 30,000 of your fellow progressives, our petition is taking off, even garnering national media attention to shine a bright spotlight on Amgen's overreach," wrote the group's executive director, Cole Leystra, in an email to supporters. "But Amgen still has an army of back-door lobbyists ready to quiet opposition and shell out targeted campaign contributions."
The New York Times reported on Jan. 19 that Amgen, through its aggressive lobbying efforts, won a provision delaying Medicare price controls for two years on a class of drugs that includes Sensipar, an Amgen drug for kidney dialysis patients. Amgen has 74 lobbyists and financial ties to Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah.)
Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced a bill on Jan. 23 repealing the provision favoring Amgen.
"We're fighting to save Medicare so middle-class families don't lose out on the benefits they've earned, but right-wingers and corporate-backed think tanks have been pushing these cuts in an effort to undermine the closest thing we have to a public option in health care coverage," said Leystra. "At the same time they are seeking to slash essential Medicare benefits, they are handing out $500 million in corporate welfare to companies like Amgen. You and I shouldn't have to foot the bill for a naked corporate handout like the one Amgen just received."
The California-based company pleaded guilty in December to illegally introducing a misbranded drug into interstate commerce and paid $762 million to resolve criminal and civil liability, a record for a biotechnology firm.