National Review Buoyed By Drug Lobbyist Cash

National Review cover

Part of the reason healthcare costs keep skyrocketing is the near unrestricted power of the pharmaceutical lobby. Drug makers, for instance, hired an army of lobbyists to pass President Bush’s drug benefit expansion, known as Medicare Part D, with a provision that restricted the government from negotiating for lower prices. Efforts to import cheaper drugs have been similarly squashed by K Street firms working on behalf of pharmaceutical corporations. While the drug industry is well-known for its hefty campaign contributions, mysterious front groups and even illicit payments to doctors, there appears be other avenues for influence, such as the popular conservative media outlet, National Review.

Disclosures reviewed by The Second Alarm show that two years ago, the primary lobbying association for the drug industry gave $205,000 to the National Review Institute, a nonprofit that supports the monthly magazine founded by right-wing legend William F. Buckley, Jr. Below is a screenshot from the disclosure, which can be found in full here:

Screenshot of PhRMA contribution to the National Review foundation

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the group that gave to National Review, represents large drug corporations like AstraZeneca, Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, and Merck. In 2009, the National Review Institute received $619,181 in contributions, meaning that the drug lobby’s check constituted about a third of overall income for the magazine’s nonprofit.

The time period in which PhRMA made its contribution coincided with helpful political attacks emanating from the pages of the National Review. The National Review took a leading role demonizing a cost-saving proposal from the Obama administration that could diminish millions, if not billions, in pharmaceutical company profits.

In 2009, as President Obama fought to deliver reform by cutting some of the waste out of the health care system. His first signature accomplishment, the stimulus, contained some initial funding of Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER). CER would set up an independent body to develop a system to find the best medical outcomes, and in doing so, save up to $700 billion by some estimates in annual health spending. PhRMA recognized quickly that CER would most likely steer medical professional towards prescribing more generic medications over branded drugs, thus slicing a sizable share of corporate profits.

While PhRMA launched ads to dissuade the Obama administration from enacting such waste-cutting reforms, the National Review took a more nasty route.

One article slammed the initial CER funding as a “slush fund” to give government control of health care decisions. In reality, the CER would help doctors and scientists have more control of how taxpayer is spent, while taking away those decisions from industry representatives.

Writing for National Review, Charles Krauthammer even advised Democrats that a health law without CER would be more likely to pass.

The National Review website also served as a sounding board for various conservatives to experiment with hits on CER. Congressman Eric Cantor published an op-ed complaining that Democrats refused to accept language into health reform that would have canceled out the CER funding Obama initiated in the stimulus. Pointing to CER funding, Peter Ferrera, a fellow at something called the Institute for Policy Innovation, wrote a piece for National Review demanding that Republicans reject any “bureaucracy that would have any power to ration health care.” Ferrera added that such power would be “the real death panels.”

Notably, National Review did criticize its corporate benefactor by name multiple times. The magazine lashed out at PhRMA for making a deal with the Obama administration to support the Baucus health reform legislation in exchange for a promise not to negotiate for Medicare drug prices or import drugs from Canada. Editor Rich Lowry recommended that PhRMA should back out of any deal with the Obama “Axis of Evil,” and kill any effort to reform health care. The magazine believed that drug company lobbyists should be more ruthless.

While PhRMA ultimately cut a check to run ads in support of health reform, the lobby continued to play both sides, funding front groups like the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, a Tea Party-aligned ant-health reform group I wrote about back in November of 2009.

CER is a conservative idea, in a way, because it forces the government to cut waste and reduce costs for taxpayers. Science-driven efforts like CER take medical decisions out of the hands of lobbyists and politicians and instead empower doctors to make Medicare reimbursement policies. But perhaps National Review would attack it anyways, given the magazine’s proclivity to slime any idea connected to Barack Obama. In either case, the big drug lobby rewarded the magazine handsomely.

Originally posted at Nation of Change.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “National Review Buoyed By Drug Lobbyist Cash

  1. Pat In Massachusetts

    I will always wonder why Obama immediately cut a back room deal with PHARMA when the reform of our healthcare system got underway. Back room deals was not something I expected from a president who ran on changing the system. Silly me, I thought he may have been interested in keeping medicine affordable for Americans. The last time I needed a simple antibiotic, I was shocked to see that a prescription of 20 pills would have cost me $80 if I didn’t have insurance. The drug was amoxicillin! There is no reason that a simple antibiotic should cost $4.00 per pill.

    This back room deal with PHARMA by Obama was an early turnoff for me and also a sign that the Masters of the Universe had their tool in place for the next four years, and what a tool he has been, isn’t that right Lloyd and Jamie?

    We know what the National Review is all about and what their agenda is. I would really love to know why the new President Obama was so eager to cut a deal with PHARMA. That story has yet to be written.

  2. Pingback: National Review Buoyed By Drug Lobbyist Cash | The Second Alarm | Pharmacy Technician Source

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