Cheaper prescription drugs Cory Booker Big Pharma

Cory Booker And Every Other Dem Who Blocked Cheaper Prescription Drugs Have Taken Millions From Big Pharma

New Jersey senator Cory Booker has been exalted as the next Barack Obama by some in the Democratic establishment, but a recent move to block cheaper prescription drugs has some wondering if he’ll be able to inspire the same hope for change that his predecessor was able to ride to the White House in 2008.

Cheaper prescription drugs Cory Booker Big Pharma
Cory Booker is facing criticism for a blocking a move which would have allowed Americans access to cheaper prescription drugs in Canada. [Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]

The controversy centers around an amendment proposed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar [D-MN] on Wednesday which sought to lower prescription drug prices in the United States by easing import restrictions with Canada. While she was able to drum up support from some Republicans, including Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the amendment eventually failed because of a lack of consensus among Democrats; one of whom was Cory Booker.

Progressive voices in the media immediately seized on the action as evidence of Cory’s commitment to the interests of pharmaceutical companies; a claim that was made with significant circumstantial evidence. First of all, Booker has taken more money than any other Democrat in Congress from the drug industry. According to transparency organization Map Light, he has received a total of $267,338 since 2013. That’s more than anyone except for Republicans Orrin G. Hatch and Mitch McConnell.

Furthermore, Cory has some key constituents who will lose out if Canada is allowed to export cheaper prescription drugs. Namely, a large list of biotech companies that operate in New Jersey. Some of which, like Merck and Celgene, also appear on his list of donors.

While some have criticized Cory for trying to slip tacit support for Big Pharma through unnoticed, the New Jersey senator answered several questions yesterday on Twitter about his vote. Booker sought to justify his stance by claiming that the amendment would not meet FDA standards, saying that his motivation was to keep Americans safe. He cited another amendment presented later in the session, which he did vote in favor of, that would allow imported Canadian drugs pending a safety certification.

While Cory did not specifically address the money that he had taken from pharmaceutical manufacturing, he at least referred to the specter of “big Pharma” hanging over the whole ordeal. Booker claimed that he had certainly not given up the fight against such corporations, and he had more action planned for the future that would dispel all doubt that he was under their control.

Still, many critics claim that the safety concern argument does not hold up. Canada has an extremely well-regulated pharmaceutical industry that often takes even longer to approve prescription drugs than its American counterpart, according to a 2012 ASCO University study. A significant amount of these drugs are also actually reimported after being manufactured in the U.S., but sell for lower prices from Canadian retailers due to less flexible pricing restrictions, according to another study published by Dove Press in 2007.

Of the Democrats who voted against the amendment, Cory Booker might be the most high profile and the largest beneficiary of pharmaceutical drug companies, but he certainly wasn’t the only one. In fact, all 13 of those senators who voted against the amendment have received at least some money from prescription drug companies. The amount does, however, vary significantly. Some, like Heidi Heitkamp, took only around $30,000, which is just double the $15,000 that the amendment’s author Klobuchar has received.

  • Michael Bennett (D-CO) — $222,000
  • Cory Booker (D-NJ) — $267,338
  • Maria Cantwell (D-WA) — $25,600
  • Tom Carper (D-DE) — $210,000
  • Bob Casey (D-PA) — $250,730
  • Chris Coons (D-DE) — $217,150
  • Joe Donnelly (D-IN) — $111,312
  • Martin Heinrich (D-NM) — $61,302
  • Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) — $32,750
  • Bob Menedez (D-NJ) — $191,400
  • Patty Murray (D-WA) — $254,649
  • Jon Tester (D-MT) — $77,250
  • Mark Warner (D-VA) — $89,800

If Cory Booker does decide to campaign for the presidency in 2020, bad press on a cheaper prescription drugs vote is unlikely to be his final blow. He faced an uphill struggle to win Newark mayor that was immortalized in the critically acclaimed documentary, Street Fight. After his win, he also faced corruption in his administration and disillusionment from locals, reported The Daily Beast.

[Featured Image by RoschetzkyProductions/Shutterstock]