A Hillary Clinton-Big Pharma Connection the Media Won't Attack?

Author and political reporter Timothy Carney has an interesting item this morning in the Washington Examiner about how Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) practically gets campaign contribution kickbacks from her support for subsidies to the drug industry for the so-called emergency contraceptive pill Plan B. Emphasis mine. (h/t James Joyner):

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., portrays herself as a scourge of the pharmaceutical industry, but she has shown that she’s willing to help a drugmaker if that’s what it takes to profit Planned Parenthood, her indispensable political ally.Clinton’s campaign Web site touts that she has “battled the big drug companies.” Yet she has sponsored many bills that would directly subsidize Barr Laboratories, maker of the emergency contraceptive pill Plan B, which also functions as an abortifacient. Thanks to a deal cut between Barr and Planned Parenthood, those taxpayer subsidies will yield generous profits for the pro-choice group that every four years spends millions trying to elect a Democrat to the White House.On Sept. 27, Clinton and eight other Democratic senators introduced the “Emergency Contraception Education Act of 2007.” While Clinton’s broad health care plan would “limit direct-to-consumer advertising” of prescription drugs, this particular bill would subsidize such advertising for emergency contraceptives in the name of a public awareness campaign for “postcoital contraception.” In effect, this bill would give Planned Parenthood tax money to conduct an ad campaign for the morning-after pill.[...]Last year, just as Andrew von Eschenbach’s name was being floated for FDA director, Barr CEO Bruce Downey cut a $1,000 check to Clinton’s campaign. A couple of weeks later, Hillary announced her hold on Eschenbach’s nomination and introduced her Plan B subsidy bill.This year, the day after Clinton introduced her Plan B awareness bill, Barr Executive Vice President Frederick J. Killion donated $1,000 to her campaign.[...] None of Senator Clinton’s Plan B subsidies have been passed into law this year, but if she can pull it off, it’s a nice deal: Taxpayers subsidize advertising for Planned Parenthood, which then spends money to elect Clinton to the White House. Surely that makes up for helping one of those “big drug companies” make a bundle.

Of course, while the media usually love to big up on drug makers, exceptions are often made for drugs favored by socially liberal activists such as Plan B and the Gardisil HPV vaccine, as Amy Menefee and I wrote about in our March 2007 study "Prescription for Bias" (emphasis mine):

While media coverage of drugs was generally favorable, one area received extremely positive coverage - drugs that also received extensive left-wing support. Nineteen stories in the study dealt with medicines or vaccines that were politically controversial for social reasons, such as Plan B (the "morning-after" pill) and Gardasil, a vaccine for HPV, a sexually transmitted virus that often leads to cervical cancer. For those drugs in particular, the networks set aside the usual scrutiny of drug companies' profit motives and wholeheartedly supported wide distribution of the medicines. Journalists even allowed industry representatives to push the products in some stories. On the May 18 "Nightly News," Dr. Richard Haupt of Merck's vaccine division told NBC's Lisa Daniels that his company had reached out to social conservatives "about HPV and what the vaccine was all about." On the July 31 "World News" on ABC, Bruce Downey of Barr Pharmaceuticals said he was "optimistic" about the decision to make Plan B available for over-the-counter sales, adding that the wisdom of the decision "will be in the final outcome."[...]

...On the July 31 "Nightly News," Downey of Barr Pharmaceuticals was deployed by reporter Tom Costello as a foil to social conservatives such as Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America in addressing concerns about Plan B, or the "morning-after pill." "The faster" that Plan B is taken, "the better," insisted Downey, who worried that waiting for a prescription was too long for women who feared themselves to be at risk for becoming pregnant. Neither the Gardasil nor the Plan B stories mentioned potential side effects. In a May 8, 2006, story, anchor Brian Williams talked about Plan B use rising rapidly, noting "about 1.3 million prescriptions are written for it each year. And over the last three years, usage has gone up 200 percent." Again, unlike media treatment of other drugs, the story didn't say how much profit the drug company had made from that skyrocketing usage, or how much more it stood to make if the drug was available to the masses over the counter.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters