Breaking News
January 23, 2019 - New certified reference material for testing residual solvents in cannabis
January 23, 2019 - Gene-edited chickens could prevent future flu pandemic
January 23, 2019 - Cardiovascular disease risk begins even before birth
January 23, 2019 - Younger patients receiving kidney transplant more likely to live longer, shows data
January 23, 2019 - Skin samples hold early signs of prion disease, research suggests
January 23, 2019 - Researchers discover how body initiates repair mechanisms that limits damage to myelin sheath
January 23, 2019 - Fecal transplant from certain donors better than others
January 23, 2019 - Risk for Uninsurance in AMI Patients Reduced With Medicaid Expansion
January 23, 2019 - Readmissions reduction program may be associated with increase in patient-level mortality
January 23, 2019 - Fostering translation and communication in medicine and beyond
January 23, 2019 - To Fight Fatty Liver, Avoid Sugary Foods and Drinks
January 23, 2019 - TPU scientists develop new implants that double the rate of bone lengthening in kids
January 23, 2019 - New sessions at Pittcon 2019
January 23, 2019 - Insilico to present latest findings in AI for Drug Discovery at 3rd Annual SABPA FTD Forum
January 23, 2019 - Opioid overdose patients can be safely discharged an hour after administration of naloxone
January 23, 2019 - Scientists find bacterial extracellular vesicles in human blood
January 23, 2019 - Researchers gain new insights into development of necrotizing enterocolitis in preemies
January 23, 2019 - Medical expert advises people with epilepsy not to stockpile medicines
January 23, 2019 - Bedfont to exhibit NObreath FeNO monitor at Arab Health 2019
January 23, 2019 - Nicotinamide riboside supplementation confers significant physiological benefits to mothers and offspring
January 23, 2019 - Increasing temperatures may help preserve crop nutrition
January 23, 2019 - Many Oncologists in the Dark About LGBTQ Health Needs
January 23, 2019 - Epigenetic change causes fruit fly babies to inherit diet-induced heart disease
January 23, 2019 - Erasing memories could reduce relapse rates among drug addicts
January 23, 2019 - African Americans who smoke cigarettes are more likely to develop peripheral artery disease
January 23, 2019 - Unique data combination helps FinnGen researchers to fund links between genetic factors and health
January 23, 2019 - Parents’ mental health problems associated with reactive attachment disorder in children
January 23, 2019 - Graphene Flagship project studies impact of graphene and related materials on our health
January 23, 2019 - The connection between the Pope and contraceptive pills
January 23, 2019 - Prior dengue infection could protect children from symptomatic Zika
January 23, 2019 - Previous dengue virus infection associated with protection from symptomatic Zika
January 23, 2019 - VISTA checkpoint implicated in pancreatic cancer immunotherapy resistance
January 23, 2019 - The Tiny Camera That Could Revolutionize Cardiovascular Surgery
January 23, 2019 - Peptide isolated from soil fungi has antitumor and antibacterial properties
January 23, 2019 - TGen identifies polio-like virus as potential cause of Acute Flaccid Myelitis outbreak
January 23, 2019 - Migrants and refugees do not bring disease and are at greater health risk themselves says WHO
January 23, 2019 - Examing the effects of menopause in workplace
January 23, 2019 - Enemy number 1 – Air pollution and climate change top of WHO agenda
January 23, 2019 - Two Positive Phase III studies of Tafenoquine for the Radical Cure of Plasmodium vivax Malaria Published in The New England Journal of Medicine
January 23, 2019 - World Trade Center responders at increased risk for head and neck cancers
January 23, 2019 - Low-sugar diet leads to significant improvement in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in boys
January 23, 2019 - Chaos in bodily regulation can optimize our immune system, finds study
January 23, 2019 - Short, text-based exercises can increase happiness for adults recovering from substance use disorders
January 23, 2019 - Body size may have greater influence on women’s lifespan than men
January 23, 2019 - Groundbreaking tool helps visualize neuronal activity with near-infrared light
January 23, 2019 - Prior dengue immunity in children may be protective against symptomatic Zika
January 23, 2019 - Holocaust survivors with PTSD and their offspring exhibit more unhealthy behavior patterns
January 23, 2019 - Scientists discover new genetic mutations causing inherited deaf-blindness
January 23, 2019 - UC team designs new naloxone-dispensing smart device
January 23, 2019 - Torrent Pharmaceuticals Limited Issues Voluntary Nationwide Recall of Losartan Potassium Tablets, USP and Losartan Potassium and Hydrochlorothiazide Tablets, USP
January 23, 2019 - Brain activity shows development of visual sensitivity in autism
January 23, 2019 - Two hour gap between dinner and sleep is overrated says Japanese research
January 23, 2019 - Fear and embarrassment are causing smear test numbers to plummet
January 23, 2019 - Protein-secreting device implanted in epileptic rats reduces seizures, improves cognition
January 23, 2019 - Reintroduction project recovers current wild population of green turtle in Cayman Islands
January 23, 2019 - Cancer survivors face greater financial burden related to medical bills
January 23, 2019 - PSA screening reduces prostate cancer deaths by 30%
January 23, 2019 - LSTM receives grant to help improve health of people living in informal settlements
January 23, 2019 - Hemochromatosis Mutation Linked to Other Morbidity
January 23, 2019 - Why early diagnosis of autism should lead to early intervention
January 23, 2019 - Aspirin May Lower Stroke Risk in Women with History of Preeclampsia
January 23, 2019 - Exposure to certain chemicals may be linked to decrease in blood pressure during pregnancy
January 23, 2019 - Bowel cancer on the rise among younger Australians
January 23, 2019 - Scientists have reversed memory loss in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s
January 23, 2019 - Defective molecular master switch could lead to age-related macular degeneration
January 23, 2019 - Researchers identify how concussions may contribute to seizures
January 23, 2019 - Short interval between last meal of the day and bedtime may not affect blood glucose levels
January 23, 2019 - Still Too Many Highway Deaths Tied to Speeding
January 23, 2019 - Prenatal valproate exposure linked to increased ADHD risk
January 23, 2019 - Compound identified that may help treat heart failure
January 23, 2019 - Undiagnosed Asthma in Urban Adolescents May Be Common
January 23, 2019 - Study describes metabolism of intestinal microbiota in babies for the first time
January 22, 2019 - Study links concussions to development of epilepsy
January 22, 2019 - Specialist-led hospital bereavement service may help restrain legal action after difficult deaths
January 22, 2019 - Genetic study reveals possible new routes to treating osteoarthritis
January 22, 2019 - Blood test may detect early signs of lung-transplant rejection
January 22, 2019 - Blood marker could aid in early prediction of Alzheimer’s progression
January 22, 2019 - Orthodontic treatment does not guarantee future dental health
January 22, 2019 - Rutgers researchers discover cause of bone loss in people with joint replacements
January 22, 2019 - Diversity among rural Africans extends to their gut microbiomes
Big Pharma greets hundreds of ex-federal workers at the ‘revolving door’

Big Pharma greets hundreds of ex-federal workers at the ‘revolving door’

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

Alex Azar’s job hop from drugmaker Eli Lilly to the Trump administration reflects ever-deepening ties between the pharmaceutical industry and the federal government.

A Kaiser Health News analysis shows that hundreds of people have glided through the “revolving door” that connects the drug industry to Capitol Hill and to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Azar was confirmed Wednesday as  HHS secretary, joining other former drug industry alumni in top positions.

Nearly 340 former congressional staffers now work for pharmaceutical companies or their lobbying firms, according to data analyzed by KHN and provided by Legistorm, a nonpartisan congressional research company. On the flip side, the analysis showed, more than a dozen former drug industry employees now have jobs on Capitol Hill — often on committees that handle health care policy.

“Who do they really work for?” said Jock Friedly, Legistorm’s president and founder, who called that quantity “substantial.” “Are they working for the person who is paying their bills at that moment or are they essentially working on behalf of the interests who have funded them in the past and may fund them in the future?”

In many cases, former congressional staffers who now work for drug companies return to the Hill to lobby former co-workers or employees. The deep ties raise concerns that pharmaceutical companies could wield undue influence over drug-related legislation or government policy.

“You’ll take the call because you’ve got a friendly relationship,” said Diana Zuckerman, president of the nonprofit National Center for Health Research and a former congressional staffer. “You’ll take the call because these people are going to help you in your future career [and] get you a job making three times as much.”

A 2012 Sunlight Foundation investigation found that, on average, a chief of staff on the Hill could increase his or her salary 40 percent by moving to the private sector.

Experts say the cozy relationships don’t necessarily mean congressional staffers do favors for lobbyists they know, but the access doesn’t hurt.

When John Stone left the House Energy and Commerce Committee last fall to join lobbying firm BGR, he told Politico that he had consulted with two lobbyists at BGR “for advice on basically everything that came across my desk.”

KHN’s review of Legistorm data indicates that one of the lobbyists, BGR’s Ryan Long, overlapped with Stone on the House panel. Brent Del Monte preceded them both on the committee and then spent 10 years at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), a trade group for the biologic drug industry, before joining BGR in 2015. BGR’s clients include PhRMA, Celgene and other pharmaceutical firms.

Like Stone, Long and Del Monte, many ex-Hill staffers working in some way for the pharmaceutical industry came from key committees, including the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which in 2016 shepherded the 21st Century Cures Act into law. The law faced criticism from watchdogs who feared it would make drug approval cheaper and easier but could lead to unsafe approvals.

Tim LaPira, a James Madison University associate professor who co-authored a book about the revolving door published in June, said the practice of leaving government service to lobby for industry isn’t as corrupt as it seems. Rather, as congressional staffs have shrunk over time, they’ve been forced to essentially outsource expertise to lobbyists, he said.

“Don’t tell the private sector to stop doing it. Tell Congress to stop relying on the private sector so much,” LaPira said, adding that Congress spends just 0.5 percent of the discretionary budget on itself.

The number of congressional employees declined by more than 7,000 people — about 27 percent — from 1979 to 2015, according to data compiled by the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit research group.

While there’s a fear that lobbyists are slipping industry-friendly language into legislation, LaPira explained, more often they’re monitoring what’s happening inside government.

The reverse-revolving door, in which former pharmaceutical employees enter public service, is not as clearly understood. Neither is the flow of serial revolvers, who go from industry to government and back.

Some of those Hill staffers, according to financial disclosures, maintain drug industry pensions and stock, Kaiser Health News found. They are not required to divest and are required to disclose those connections only if they hold key positions.

Reverse revolvers may not realize they’re doing Big Pharma’s bidding, Friedly said, but they’ve been so exposed to the industry’s point of view that their implicit biases may seep into their legislative work.

The revolving door operates beyond the Hill, however, LaPira said

In addition to Azar, several former drug industry officials have landed key jobs in Trump’s Cabinet and administration, including Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, a former venture capitalist with deep ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

Gottlieb disclosed serving on boards of several pharmaceutical companies, including GlaxoSmithKline and Daiichi Sankyo, prior to returning to government for his third trip through the revolving door.

KHN also reviewed the résumés of more than 100 HHS appointees, obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request by American Oversight, a nonprofit founded to hold government officials accountable. Although only a handful of recent appointees were employed directly by drug companies, more than a dozen had worked as lobbyists, consultants and lawyers on behalf of pharmaceutical firms.

The high-level HHS appointees include: Keagan Lenihan, a former lobbyist for drug distributor McKesson who now serves as senior counselor to the secretary at HHS; former PhRMA lobbyist John O’Brien, now deputy assistant secretary of health policy for the agency’s Planning and Evaluation arm; and former Bristol-Myers Squibb lobbyist Mary-Sumpter Lapinski, an attorney in the HHS secretary’s office.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren expressed concerns about the revolving door during Azar’s confirmation hearing before the HELP committee in November. Not long after telling Azar that his “résumé reads like a how-to manual for profiting from government service,” she asked him whether drug industry CEOs should be held accountable when the companies they run break the law. He did not answer yes or no.

His reply: “I’m satisfied with our discussion.”

METHODOLOGY

Kaiser Health News obtained revolving-door and lobbying disclosure data from Legistorm, a for-profit, nonpartisan congressional research firm based in Washington, D.C.

The revolving-door data include congressional staffers’ jobs on and off Capitol Hill. It is current through August 2017 and dates to 2001. For lobbyists who did not directly work for pharmaceutical firms but worked for lobbying firms on behalf of pharmaceutical companies and their trade groups, Kaiser Health News used lobbying disclosure data to identify individuals registered to lobby on behalf of these clients. Reporters then tracked down these lobbyists in Legistorm’s revolving door data and checked them by hand.

The HHS appointee résumés obtained by American Oversight covered individuals appointed from Jan. 20 to July 12, 2017.

KHN’s coverage of prescription drug development, costs and pricing is supported by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles