testosteronepit.com / By Wolf Richter / January 21, 2013, 2:30PM
Congress excels at enriching corporate welfare programs—in this case, Medicare. Ironically, it happened while Congress is struggling to rein in Medicare’s gargantuan deficits with belt-tightening measures that would hit people who paid into the system throughout their working years. This time, the prime beneficiary was Big Pharma, particularly one company….
Amgen. Yet the giant biotech drug maker had gotten into a heap of trouble on another issue. On December 19, when no one was supposed to pay attention, and when everyone was supposed to be distracted by the Fiscal Cliff theatrics, Amgen pleaded guilty to “illegally introducing a misbranded drug into interstate commerce.” It settled a bevy of criminal and civil issues by agreeing to pay $762 million—as the Department of Justice pointed out—”the single largest criminal and civil False Claims Act settlement involving a biotechnology company in U.S. history.”
Even while the settlement was taking its course, Amgen’s lobbyists—Open Secrets lists 75, from 25 lobbying groups—were scurrying around the corridors of power in Washington to have an innocuous-sounding but highly profitable paragraph regarding its dialysis drug Sensipar inserted into the Fiscal Cliff bill.
The New York Times, in its article on that issue, described the depth and complexity of Amgen’s “efforts in Washington” where it has “deep financial and political ties” to various lawmakers, including Senators Max Baucus (Democrat of Montana) and Orrin G. Hatch (Republican of Utah) “who hold heavy sway over Medicare payment policy as the leaders of the Finance Committee.” The company also “worked hard” on its influence with the White House.