Officials say PhRMA funded U.S. Chamber of Commerce ads touting Medicare prescription drug benefit

Date: Wednesday, 30-Aug-2006

"[P]olitical officials" allege that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America gave money to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to support an advertising campaign that praises senators and House members who voted for the 2003 Medicare law, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports (Espo, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 8/25).

The $10 million campaign was launched in July and includes radio and television ads (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 7/31). According to the AP/Mercury News, "officials who described PhRMA's involvement said they did not know whether the industry had given the Chamber money to cover the entire cost of the ads and other elements of an election-year voter mobilization effort or merely a portion." The campaign ads are airing in 10 states or congressional districts and have been removed in other areas because of errors, the AP/Mercury News reports. An ad supporting Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) was removed because he voted against the 2003 Medicare law, and ads supporting Reps. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Mike Sodrel (R-Ind.) and Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) were removed after Democrats noted that the lawmakers were not in Congress when the law passed, according to the AP/Mercury News.


Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Eric Wohlschlegel said, "The Chamber paid for the Medicare ads," but he declined to comment on whether the group received money from PhRMA. Ken Johnson, senior vice president of PhRMA, in a statement said that his organization "works with a variety of groups, including patient advocacy groups and business organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others, to support policies that improve patient access to lifesaving medicines." In a second statement, Johnson said that as a result of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, "millions of Medicare patients who previously had no prescription drug coverage are now benefiting from substantial discounts negotiated by Medicare drug plans." Bill Burton, spokesperson for the House Democratic campaign organization, said, "There's a civics lesson here from the drug companies. They write checks to protect their GOP friends, and then they write the laws to benefit themselves, all the while doctors are writing prescriptions middle-class Americans can't afford" (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 8/25).

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