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KEYCODE BAYER #23

USA: PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY SPONSORS REPUBLICAN ELECTORAL CAMPAIGN

German Corporation Bayer donated $120,000 to Bush

"There is a direct link between the enormous profits of the pharmaceutical industry and the fact that Americans pay the highest prices in the world for medicines. I believe that Congress should protect the Americans who are being exploited instead of the sales of the pharmaceutical corporations". More and more US politicians are starting to share the view of Vermont Congressman Bernhard Sanders. The Federal State of Maine has already authorized its officials to negotiate lower prices for medicines and takes companies adding exorbitant mark-ups to court for profiteering. With Al Gore as President the golden age in which the drug producers enjoyed not only high profit-margins but also tax breaks, accelerated drug approval procedures and stiffening of pharmaceutical patent law could come to an end.

This is why Ronald Docksai, deputy head of Bayer Corporationïs lobby office in Washington, freely admits, "Everybody knows that we as a corporation would be much happier with a President Bush than a President Gore". To push things in the desired direction, the chemical giant donated $120,000 to Bush in the summer. The Democrats received $40,000 so that if the election results turned out unfavorably for the corporation, it would still be able to carry on in a fair way of business. In the last five years Bayer has handed out more than $600,000 to US politicians - the only German companies more generous in untying their purse strings were Daimler-Chrysler and Heidelberger Zement.

The lobbying activities of Ronald Docksai and his colleagues from Pfizer, Glaxo-Wellcome, Merck & Co put those of other industries in the shade. Except for the insurance groups, which, having a clear interest in low drug prices, put up a stiff and eloquent resistance to the pharmaceutical corporations. Thus, behind the scenes of the highly public TV duel between the two candidates Gore and Bush, a struggle between commercial competitors - drug multis versus the insurance industry - is being fought out: in 1999 the joint ventureof the 15 largest pharmaceutical corporations spent around $60 million towards its target of free fixing of prices and profits. Its campaign message to US consumers was that lower profits lead inevitably to less money for R & D projects and consequently more unnecessary suffering through illness. The transparently shaky Pied Piper-type slogan used was, "Donït interrupt our work saving lives". As usual the managers dressed up as Good Samaritans were willing to use any kind of dirty trick to attain their goals. They presented expert reports specially prepared by friendly academics for the occasion taking the line, "Scientists have discovered that...." and set up pressure groups disguised as patient organizations. One of these, the "Citizens for Better Medicare", wielded a well-stocked $50 million advertising budget in its fight against fixed drug prices.

Compared with the election of 96, the total amount donated by industry doubled to reach a figure of $737 million, roughly equally shared between the two parties. Whichever way the result goes, neither Democrats nor Republicans will frame policies against the interests of businesses which have donated money to their electoral funds. And if President Gore - by contrast with Clinton, whose health reform was a lamentable failure - should really succeed in piloting his "minor reform" through, there is no doubt that the measures will have been approved by the Bayer Corporation and its associates.