Download production quality video of Senator Brown’s remarks HERE.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In case you missed it, last week, as a part of a lawsuit unfolding in Cleveland, a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) database was made public and revealed that drug companies inundated the U.S. with 76 billion highly addictive painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone from 2006 through 2012, even as the addiction crisis spun out of control. Over this seven-year period, Big Pharma doled out an estimated 3.7 billion prescription pain pills to Ohio alone. Yesterday, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown today took to the Senate Floor to assail the fact that many of these drug companies continued to saturate states like Ohio with prescription painkillers as the opioid crisis raged, while at the same time exploiting loopholes that allow drug companies to deduct the cost of advertising expenses from their federal taxes.
Brown has long fought to close this loophole, and took to the floor yesterday to call on Congress to do stop taxpayer subsidies to pharmaceutical companies. Earlier this year, Brown introduced the End Taxpayer Subsidies for Drug Ads Act with his colleague Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). This legislation would prohibit pharmaceutical drug manufacturers from claiming tax deductions for consumer advertising expenses, ensuring that taxpayer dollars are not used to subsidize drug advertisements.
Advertising expenses by pharmaceutical drug manufacturers have more than quadrupled over the past two decades, rising from $1.3 billion in 1997 to $6 billion in 2016. In that same time period, advertising from drug companies has increased from 79,000 ads to 4.6 million ads, including 663,000 TV commercials. Economists have estimated that nearly one third of the growth in drug companies’ spending can be attributed to the increase in advertising for prescription drugs.
Brown’s remarks on the Senate Floor, as prepared for delivery, are below:
America is in the middle of a public health crisis. 14 Ohioans die every day of a drug overdose – and we know the numbers aren’t much better in most states.
We’ve known for a long time that addiction often starts in the family medicine cabinet, and that drug companies were all too eager to push those addictive drugs on the American people.
But the evidence we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks is staggering.
New data from the DEA released this month revealed that drug companies flooded the country with 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills, from 2006 through 2012.
76 billion pills – that’s enough to supply every single person in the U.S. with 36 pills a year.
And this new evidence makes clear, these corporations knew exactly what they were doing.
One wholesale drug distributer in Ohio wrote in an email that the opioid pills were, quote “Flyin’ out of there. It’s like people are addicted to these things or something. Oh, wait, people are. . .”
Can you believe that? He acknowledged they are addicted and joked about it.
And if that’s not bad enough, then the drug company representative responded: “Just like Doritos, keep eating. We’ll make more.”
And they certainly did make more.
This is what Big Pharma does.
They push their drugs on the American people to line their own pockets, the cost in emptied bank accounts and ruined lives be damned.
And if all that wasn’t bad enough, these corporations can actually write off the cost of advertising these drugs on their taxes.
That’s right, all those years that Big Pharma was pushing more and more opioids on the country, selling them in ad after ad, they were getting a tax break to do it.
For years I have tried to crack down on drug company ads – it’s why I introduced an amendment at our Finance Committee markup last week based on my legislation with Senator Shaheen, to end taxpayer subsidies for Big Pharma’s drug ads.
We should not be giving tax breaks to Big Pharma to sell its drugs. Period.
And there are a lot of other ideas many of us have to crack down on these corporations, and limit their power to push potentially addictive drugs on people.
Senator Hassan filed an amendment during the Senate Finance Committee’s drug pricing markup last week to try to increase transparency on these drug companies.
Big Pharma has a history of creating fake “grassroots” organizations to do their lobbying for them – groups supposedly made up of ordinary citizens, but in reality bought and paid for by drug companies.
People have the right to know if the groups pushing drugs on them are actually bought and paid for by pharmaceutical corporations.
The opioid addiction crisis is one of the greatest public health emergencies of our lifetimes.
And it’s now crystal clear – Big Pharma purposefully and deliberately helped to cause it. And the federal government gave them tax breaks to do it.
We need to hold these corporations accountable, and we need to make sure they never again have the unchecked power to push addictive drugs – or any drugs – on the American people to line their own executives’ pockets.