Even as President Obama campaigned on a platform of change and transparency, recent dealings between the pharmaceutical industry and the Administration raise serious questions as to whether the drug lobby is helping to bankroll a multimillion dollar severance package for one of the President's senior advisors:
- Several weeks ago, the President announced an agreement with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) to achieve $80 billion in savings as part of health care "reform." The Congressional Budget Office has previously found that eliminating the Part D "doughnut hole"- one element of the PhRMA "deal"-would cause Medicare premiums to rise by 50 percent.
- As a result of the White House agreement with the drug lobby, press reports indicate that a coalition of interest groups led by PhRMA has committed up to $150 million to generate publicity in support of the President's health "reform."
- On Saturday, Bloomberg News reported that one of the firms hired to spearhead the PhRMA-led advertising campaign is AKPD-the firm that Senior Advisor to the President David Axelrod founded, and where his son continues to work.
- The same news story reported that Axelrod will be paid $2 million from AKPD as part of his severance package-payments which will come due beginning in December.
The press reports to date raise other potentially troubling questions about the ramifications of the dealings between the pharmaceutical industry and the Administration:
- Has David Axelrod recused himself from the PhRMA "deal," or will he work to defend an agreement with an industry that is directly funding his son's work, and indirectly funding his own $2 million severance package?
- Why exactly did the head of PhRMA publicly brag about negotiating a "rock-solid deal" with the Administration-and did the hiring of David Axelrod's former firm have anything to do with his confidence?
- How exactly did AKPD generate this advertising contract?
As the pharmaceutical industry spends hundreds of millions supporting a government takeover of health care-one which drug companies obviously believe will increase their profits, even as it raises Medicare premiums for seniors-some may wonder whether White House senior advisors earning millions of dollars paid for in part by the pharmaceutical industry represents the kind of change Americans can believe in.