Reform ensures healthy profits for drug industry

Johnathan Brown

Note: The editorial blog is an alternative space for opinion writers to explore issues independently. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the collective opinion of the Minnesota Daily Editorial Board.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama signed health insurance reform into law. With 22 pens, Obama inscribed his signature onto the bill so that key lawmakers could have a token with which to remember their efforts. The last two pens are to be donated to the National Archives, but the President best not forget to wrap one in a pretty box along with a copy of the bill’s language for one of the most powerful special interest groups in America: big pharma.

Many stocks in the health care sector reacted bullishly Monday, the first day of trading after the House passed health reform. But it was the drug manufacturers who led the way as Pfizer gained 1.4 percent, Merck .6 percent and Bristol Myers Squibb 1.8 percent.

What did these companies find so attractive about the legislation? The 32 million formerly-uninsured new customers didn’t hurt, nor the the bill’s five-year extension of pharmaceutical patents, from seven years to twelve. Or perhaps it was the clause that will keep the government from shopping out of country for cheaper drugs. Or maybe it was that part which made it illegal for health savings account holders to purchase generic medications.

According to OpenSecrets.org, pharmaceutical and health product companies donated $2,141,826 to Barack Obama during the his campaign. John McCain received less than one-third that amount.

You also may remember that during his campaign, Barack Obama repeatedly promised to keep former lobbyists out of his administration. It’s quite clear that big pharma doesn’t need any lobbyists working for the president: he’s the best one they’ve got.