Buried within the “fiscal cliff” deal was a massive piece of Corporate Welfare for pharmaceutical giant Amgen. That’s not surprising given that the tax increases in the bill were completely offset by the Corporate Welfare stuffed into it – so a huge waste of time deficit wise. But the Amgen subsidy is causing consternation given both the amount and Amgen’s recent misconduct.
Last December Amgen plead guilty to improper marketing of its anemia drug to cancer patients. In order to boost sales Amgen marketed the drug for uses it was not approved and for higher doses than it was approved – all done to take market share away from its competitor Johnson & Johnson. Awful but not surprising conduct for a corporation.
As part of the guilty plea Amgen agreed to pay $762 million in a civil settlement and criminal fines.
Then Amgen had an idea.
Using their 74 lobbyists and influence accrued from campaign contributions the company pushed for and received a taxpayer subsidy of $500 million, inserted into the “fiscal cliff” deal.
Senators who play a major role in federal health care financing were happy to help Amgen, the world’s largest biotechnology company, evade Medicare cost-cutting controls by delaying price restraints on a class of drugs used by kidney dialysis patients, including Sensipar, a drug made by Amgen. That provision was inserted into the final fiscal bill by Senate aides. Many members of Congress did not know it was in the bill until just hours before it was approved.
Although other companies will benefit financially from that delay, Amgen, which has 74 lobbyists in Washington, was the only company to lobby aggressively for the provision. The delay will cost the Medicare program up to $500 million over a two-year period.
Pay $762 million for breaking the law, get a $500 million subsidy from lawmakers. What a system!
Now Congressman Welch (D-VT) is proposing a bill that would take away Amgen’s subsidy.
Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) today introduced bipartisan legislation to repeal a $500 million giveaway to Amgen that was tucked into the fiscal cliff deal passed by Congress at the end of the year.
“This eleventh-hour, backroom deal confirms the American public’s worst suspicions of how Congress operates,” Welch said. “As the nation’s economy teetered on the edge of a Congressional-created fiscal cliff, lobbyists for a private, for-profit company seized an opportunity to feed at the public trough. Without scrutiny or debate, the American taxpayer was stuck with the $500 million tab. This special interest provision should have stood on its own merits with an up or down vote. It’s no wonder cockroaches and root canals are more popular than Congress.”
Let’s just hope there’s no last minute inserts this time around.