Shifting Rhetoric Hurts American Workers … and Patients

November 21, 2019 10:03 am

Bashing the U.S. biopharmaceutical industry has become a popular pastime for politicians and, according to a new Boston Globe article, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) evolving rhetoric is proof of that trend. 


Sen. Warren once embraced the industry, which employs thousands of her constituents. And then, according to Globe reporter Liz Goodwin and STAT News correspondent Lev Facher, the senator opted to run for president. In their article, Goodwin and Facher say Sen. Warren has undergone a “yearslong health care transformation—a shift from a senator, sympathetic to her home state’s health care interests, to a national political figure with her sights on more sweeping policy shifts.” Goodwin and Facher call the evolution “deliberate,” and seem to suggest it was meant to bolster Warren’s chances of beating fellow Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Democratic presidential primary.  


Goodwin and Facher recall that Sen. Warren “only introduced a handful of health-care bills in her early years in the Senate, most of them focused on bolstering research funding and working with Republicans on enacting low-profile tweaks to the health-care system.” The senator also kept “an open dialogue with the local biotech industry” and even attempted to boost the fortunes of medical device manufacturers by opposing the Affordable Care Act’s tax on medical devices.


An Iowa newspaper reported on Nov. 10, 2016 that progressives were itching for Sen. Warren to consider a White House run, and the lawmaker’s strategy seemed to shift shortly after that. On the Senate floor on Nov. 28, 2016, Sen. Warren called the 21st Century Cures Act a “corrupt” and “very, very dangerous” bill. The legislation, which passed on a bipartisan 94-5 vote in the Senate and generated a 392-26 tally in the House, was meant to streamline the federal approval process for new treatments. It also authorized $6.3 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health.


As Goodwin and Facher point out, the speech “coincided with President Trump’s election and her overnight emergence as a likely presidential contender.”


Then, about a year ago, just a few weeks before officially launching her campaign for the White House, Sen. Warren introduced legislation that, as Vice explained, would “break up generic drug ‘cartels’ by allowing the U.S. government to manufacture its own drugs.”


While rhetoric like “cartels” might be popular with the senator’s base, her legislation could damage the lives and livelihoods of the people who voted her into office.


Indeed, cartel is an odd word for an industry that, according to the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio), employs more than 10,000 voters in the senator’s home state, and more than 32,000 individuals in the swing states of Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. (MassBio also found the average wage earned by someone in the industry is nearly $150,000; total wages in the commonwealth alone top $10.4 billion.)


According to MassBio, $3.1 billion in venture capital investment flowed to Massachusetts biopharma companies in 2017. As we have explained, legislation like Sen. Warren’s would devastate investment in the biotech sector.


Simple rhetoric. Deadly results.