By GREGORY N. HEIRES
Drug companies have increased their political contributions in New York State as they come under fire for excessive prices and face calls for greater government regulation.
In 2016, pharmaceutical companies contributed $799,150 to candidates for state office in New York, according to state Board of Elections records, POLITICO New York reported. That’s up from $588,750 in 2015 and $667,485 in 2014.
Big Pharma is campaigning against a plan by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to create a price ceiling on certain high-priced drugs that Medicaid covers. His plan also calls for greater transparency.
The debate in New York over the political influence and price gouging of the drug industry mirrors the concerns in Washington, D.C., where progressive politicians are pushing for greater regulation and control over prices.
Critics of the industry would like to open up the drug industry to competition with Canadian pharmaceutical companies. Big Pharma succeeded in keeping price competition out of former President George W. Bush’s Medicare Part D drug benefit for seniors. Opening up the U.S. market to competition from Canada was also a big issue in the 2016 presidential election.
For years, DC 37 has called for the regulation of the drug industry as its welfare plan faces struggles with the out-of-control price hikes of Big Pharma. Just this month, members approved a contract extension that will enable the DC 37 Health & Security Plan to pour millions of dollars into the drug benefit.
The approval of the extension triggered a $200 increase in the amount of funding for each member and retiree that the city contributes to union benefits each year. The annual contribution is increasing from $1,575 to $1,775. Over the past eight years, the pharmaceutical industry has raised prescription drug prices by 105 percent while city contributions increased by only 1.05 percent.
Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio charged that “corporate greed” was at the root of the opioid epidemic in the city.
De Blasio made that charge as he unveiled a plan to address opioid overdose deaths in the city. He said the pharmaceutical industry bears responsibility for the epidemic as it minimizes the addictiveness of prescription painkillers. More than 1,000 city residents died in opioid-fatalities last year.