On Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) will pitch single payer health care to the Senate, and some in big pharma are worried that Americans will like what they hear.
The Intercept reported that Brent Saunders, chief executive of pharmaceutical mega-weight Allergan, expressed worry at the Wells Fargo Healthcare Conference in Boston over the weekend that, for many in the United States, "enough's enough."
"I think we’ve got to do things to bring that trust back,” Saunders said in a speech to his peers and colleagues in the industry, confessing he felt Americans had lost confidence in drug companies. “Because ultimately, someone’s going to be in the White House. Somebody’s going to be in Congress. Someone’s going to be somewhere and going to have to say, ‘Enough’s enough. Let’s just change the whole system. Let’s go to one payer. Let’s do something.'”
In 2016, Saunders admitted that some in the pharmaceutical industry have engaged in "predatory price increases" and called for drug companies to do better by honoring the "social contract" they have with patients. He outlined a set of principles for companies to abide by, a list he extolled in his speech at the Boston health conference. However, The Intercept pointed out the irony of his statements given Allergan's recent dubious business practices.
"The CEO has been under fire for taking the unprecedented step of transferring the patent of one of Allergan’s blockbuster drugs, the eye medication Restasis, to a sovereign Native American tribe as part of a bid to maintain monopoly control of the drug and its revenue," journalist Lee Fang explained. "The highly unusual legal strategy is designed to keep generic drug firms from challenging the Restasis patent, thus lowering the cost to consumers, while keeping Allergan in effective control of the revenue through its deal with the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe."
Single payer health care has long been a pet project of progressives, but amid the epic failure of Trumpcare and the GOP, and the blatant exploitation of pharmaceutical companies like Allergan, it's become a topic no longer relegated to the extreme left of political and social ideologies.
While the chances of his proposed bill passing this Republican-dominated congress are next to nothing, Sanders has some powerful figures at his back like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey).
As The Hill notes, this alone is a huge step forward and a signal that Medicare for all is finally on the table. For advocates of single payer health care, the fact that a big pharma CEO like Saunders is concerned about his industry's role in America's future is a sign that something is finally going right.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters photographer Mike Blake