Sunday, January 14, 2007
House Republican leaders, who confidently predicted they would drive a wedge through the new Democratic majority, have found their own party splintering, with Republican lawmakers siding with Democrats in droves on the House's opening legislative blitz.
Freed from the pressures of being the majority and from the heavy hand of former leaders including retired representative Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), many back-bench Republicans are showing themselves to be more moderate than their conservative leadership and increasingly mindful of shifting voter sentiment. The closest vote last week -- Friday's push to require the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare -- pulled 24 Republicans. The Democrats' homeland security bill attracted 68 Republicans, the minimum wage increase 82.
"You're freer to vote your conscience," said Rep. Jo Anne Emerson (R-Mo.), who received an 88 percent voting record from the American Conservative Union in 2005 but has so far sided with Democrats on new budget rules, Medicare prescription-drug negotiations, raising the minimum wage and funding stem cell research. "Or, really, I feel free to represent my constituents exactly as they want me to be."
The Democrats "deserve the same credit that we got in 1995," when Republicans took control, said Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.). "They've picked up on the really big issues of the day, the ones they won the election on, and the ones that really resonate in Republican districts."
Democratic leaders say even they have been surprised by their margins of victory, but they were always counting on GOP votes. Republicans from swing districts who have been beat up for years over their party-line voting have been liberated by their minority status, said Rep. John B. Larson (Conn.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
"They've really been the ones that have been oppressed," he said.
Gee, what a novel idea for a Republican lawmaker - voting conscience and/or voting for what constituents wants you to vote for instead of voting for the narrow right-wing agenda that the Republican leadership and their K Street lobbyists and corporate special interests shove down your throat.
Is this a new day for the Republican Party? Could this mean the days of authoritarian rule when Republican lawmakers were willing to do anything the crooks and bullies in their leadership told them to do is over?
Not if the Republican leadership has anything to say about it. The Post article says they've got parliamentary rules devised to throw a monkey wrench into the future Democratic legislative agenda and the possibility of Republican defections in support of it. Plus the early Dem agenda was devised to create broad support among members of both parties.
But here's the real funny part - Republican Ray LaHood says the reasons why Repubs are jumping the party's ship is because Dems picked mainstream issues that are important to people and garner lots of support - but his Republican leadership doesn't think these issues are so important:
"Republican discipline was critically important when we were passing legislation and moving an agenda," House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said. "The Democrats will soon move from these issues that poll at 80, 90 percent to issues that really matter."
Right. Because ensuring port security, funding homeland security, funding stem cell research, providing affordable college loans and financial aid for middle and working class Americans, and taking back the Republican giveaways to the prescription drug companies, oil industry and banking industry aren't issues that really matter.
No wonder House Minority Whip Blunt - one of K Street's favorite Congressman (in fact, he sleeps with a lobbyist) is in the minority these days. He's fucking clueless about what's important to many Americans. I guess that's what happens when you live off the corporate lobby trough for so long that ExxonMobil, Chase Manhattan Bank and Merck IS your constituency.
Voting no on such issues could be costly for GOP members, and getting them to follow a reasonable agenda will be helpful not only to them personally, but the continuation of checks and balances.
Now if we could only dredge ourselves out of the Big Muddy...
It's amazing what an election will do.
I think they will be coming around on the war soon too.
The Times put it this way about Repubs and their old positions on the war - "everybody is scared spitless."
Scared spitless means the preznut has very little time left before he is completely abandoned by all but the neocons, Holy joe Lieberman, and the admin apologists who can't see their way to ever taking their mouths off his knob.
"The closest vote last week -- Friday's push to require the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare -- pulled 24 Republicans. The Democrats' homeland security bill attracted 68 Republicans, the minimum wage increase 82."
Why not raise the minimum wage to $25 an hour? That works out to about $50,000 a year based on a standard 40-hour work-week.
I think most Americans could get by on that. Do you think a minimum wage of $25 an hour is a good idea?
Let me know.
How about that Medicare drug negotiation issue? I think the government should negotiate.
However, you seem to think negotiating would lead to lower drug prices. Why in the world would you think that?
What if -- and it is very possible -- the negotiations resulted in some drug prices falling and others rising?
I can assure you there are specialty drugs that have been developed for small groups of people who suffer from rare medical problems that often cost more than $100,000 a year. Many are known as "orphan drugs" because the developers have stopped producing them. They are then picked up by other drug companies willing to invest the time and money to make them available. If the government wants to cut those prices, the drug companies will abandon the drugs again and leave the various sufferers with few or no options.
Tell me why that's a good idea.
Aaaahhh, the blackmail of the drugs industry. If you think any drug company will open itself up to the amount of negative publicity that goes with stopping the production of a vital medication, you are clearly the victim of the wonderous PR machine surrounding the drugs company. The same old line has been touted around time and time again.
The profits of the drug companies are at obscene levels. More than enough to cope with a reduction in costs.
In reference to the minimum wage, I don't know what the proposals are at the moment (about $7 isn't it??), but in the UK it is roughly the equivalent of $10.50. And isn't the US supposed to be the most powerful country in the world???
"Aaaahhh, the blackmail of the drugs industry. If you think any drug company will open itself up to the amount of negative publicity that goes with stopping the production of a vital medication, you are clearly the victim of the wonderous PR machine surrounding the drugs company."
Oh. I see. Then it's your contention that no drug company has ever suspended the manufacture and marketing of any drug.
Having followed several drug companies as an analyst on Wall Street, I can assure you that you have no idea what you're talking about.
There is an entire segment of the drug industry that currently acquires production and marketing rights of drugs with little remaining profitability. Or those with tiny markets. Or those coming off patent and facing major generic competition.
"The same old line has been touted around time and time again."
Perhaps because it's true, or true enough.
"The profits of the drug companies are at obscene levels. More than enough to cope with a reduction in costs."
I'll bet you have no idea what the net profit margin of any major drug company is without first researching the figures. Moreover, it's obvious you have no idea when profits are "obscene."
Let me assure you, Microsoft's net profit margin is far higher than any drug company in the world. Furthermore, many, many drug companies begin as the brain-child of a Ph.d. student who, with the help of Wall Street, is able to start a company based on the potential of his brain-child. However, the majority of these long-shots lose money. A handful are winners.
If I can get away from your patronising remarks, that is not actually what I was saying, as you well know. Given as I have worked for a 'major drug firm', no I don't need to research into it.
As for Microsoft, what an absurd comparison. I am not aware of Microsoft producing life saving medication, although as an 'analyst' you clearly know more about the drugs industry than most other people. It seems that you are the one who doesn't know what he/she is talking about. You might as well compare a company making military hardware with a company producing cheese.
"that is not actually what I was saying, as you well know."
Your words were not ambiguous. Whether you meant to or not, you said drug companies don't terminate the manufacture and marketing of drugs.
"Given as I have worked for a 'major drug firm', no I don't need to research into it."
I'll bet you don't know the net profit margin of any drug company, probably not even the one you worked for, unless you check some financial statements.
Meanwhile, after you check those figures, why don't you post them here?
And what about your assertion that drug company profit margins are "obscene?"
At what point does a company's net profit margin slip into "obscene" territory?
10%? 15%? 20%?
"As for Microsoft, what an absurd comparison. I am not aware of Microsoft producing life saving medication..."
How many medications are "lifesaving?"
Is medication for high blood pressure a "lifesaver" or a "life-extender"? Do hypertension medications face competion, which always leads to better prices for consumers?
"It seems that you are the one who doesn't know what he/she is talking about."
Based on what?
"You might as well compare a company making military hardware with a company producing cheese."
I assure you, investment comparisons of that sort are made every day.
Meanwhile, you have simply tried to dodge the point of your own statement -- that drug company profits were "obscene."
If drug company profits are "obscene" and Microsoft has an even higher profir margin, Microsoft's profits must fall into territory beyond "obscene." But that doesn't seem to concern you.
How inconsistent of you.
You didn't qualify your "obscenity" claim by stating that it applied only to one industry.
Anyway, feel free to let me know why the government would succeed at reducing ALL drug prices by negotiating with drug companies that can choose to walk away from the negotiations.
The bottom line is, no matter what facts are produced to undermine the argument that drug companies are benevolent entities, you will continue to beat the drum. You have to, or else your whole fragile world view collapses around you. You will continue to believe that spending $7 billion on marketing is money well spent by the drug companies. You will continue to believe that the drug comapnies cannot afford to reduce this marketing expenditure because you believe that marketing is essential to a 'healthy' capitalist system. The fact that the drug companies can afford to plough $7 billion into marketing is obscene (Pfizer alone spent $1.1billion in 2005). A study based on the Public Citizen analysis of company reports and Fortune magazine found that their revenues were divided as follows:
R&D - 12.5%
Profits - 18.5%
Marketing and Administration - 30.4%
Are you seriously telling me that that 34.4% can't be shaved in the slightest???
As for the impact on R&D, R&D spending in Europe is higher than in the US and yet European states control drug prices. The British drug industry, for example, spends 20% of sales revenue on R&D, US companies plough in only 12.5% (as I have previously shown). The impact on R&D will, therefore, be negligible.
The truth is that the drug companies spend huge amounts of money on marketing and any decrease in drug prices could easily be offset by a reduction in advertising expenditure. But then, as you well know, in the capitalist system, marketing is king.
That should, of course, read 30.4%.
"The bottom line is, no matter what facts are produced to undermine the argument that drug companies are benevolent entities, you will continue to beat the drum."
I will surely show favor for the most productive and life-enhancing pharmaceutical industry in the world -- that's the US pharma industry.
"You have to, or else your whole fragile world view collapses around you."
What fragile world? The most prosperous and successful economy in the history of the world is FRAGILE? You really need at least a basic course in economics. You are way way out of touch.
"You will continue to believe that spending $7 billion on marketing is money well spent by the drug companies."
It is. If drug companies spend a dollar on marketing, they expect to earn a profit on that dollar. If marketing did not return more than what was spent, drug companies wouldn't bother. Neither would any other company attempting to reach consumers.
You showed more ignorance of basic business sense:
"You will continue to believe that the drug comapnies cannot afford to reduce this marketing expenditure because you believe that marketing is essential to a 'healthy' capitalist system."
Drug companies, any company, can spend whatever it has available for marketing and advertising. If a company wants to expand its consumer base, it will reach out to as many consumers and potential consumers as possible. If management would rather not see markets expand or products reach as many patients as possible, it can reduce or terminate marketing expenditures.
However, I can't imagine why a drug company with a good pharmaceutical product would choose to keep the product a secret.
You further showed your appreciation for how to undermine a business:
"The fact that the drug companies can afford to plough $7 billion into marketing is obscene (Pfizer alone spent $1.1billion in 2005)."
Yes. Of course. Drugs are just there. They grow on trees and everyone knows all about all of them and no one would ever have to think about which one might treat an individual best if we simply remained ignorant.
You admitted you didn't know any drug company figures without first doing some research:
"A study based on the Public Citizen analysis of company reports and Fortune magazine found that their revenues were divided as follows:
R&D - 12.5%
Profits - 18.5%
Marketing and Administration - 30.4%"
Let's take a peek at Pfizer. Pfizer reported top-line revenue of $51 billion in 2005, the last year for which all figures are available.
Revenue = $51 billion
R & D = $7.4 billion = 15% of revenue
S, G & A = Selling, General & Administrative = $17 billion = 33% of revenue.
Before you explode on yourself, you ought to understand that you can't read financial statements. I can tell from your responses.
S,G&A is the figure for ALL salaries, ALL selling expenses, and ALL administrative expenses. It does not represent the advertising and marketing budget alone. Far from it.
"Are you seriously telling me that that 34.4% can't be shaved in the slightest???"
Why would you reduce the expenditures of capital that contributes in a big way to increasing the top line -- revenue -- and the bottom line -- net imcome, while generously funding R&D?
You must think drug companies spend money on marketing because they simply like to give it away. That's the only reason they would part with money that didn't add to the betterment of the company.
"As for the impact on R&D, R&D spending in Europe is higher than in the US and yet European states control drug prices."
For a guy who claims he worked for a drug company, you know surprisingly little about the industry.
First, what you really mean is that in Europe the governments subsidize the drug companies. Thus, taxpayers kick in on top of the revenue derived from sales to consumers. However, if you ignore the subsidy and calculate R&D's percentage of the top line based only on "sales", then of course the percentage appears higher than it really is.
Meanwhile, you're engaging in an apples-to-oranges comparison.
Next, the US drug industry is better than the European drug industry. I wonder why?
"The British drug industry, for example, spends 20% of sales revenue on R&D, US companies plough in only 12.5% (as I have previously shown). The impact on R&D will, therefore, be negligible."
Ahh, the lefty numbers nonsense.
Your biggest whopper:
"The truth is that the drug companies spend huge amounts of money on marketing and any decrease in drug prices could easily be offset by a reduction in advertising expenditure."
What you and all the others who've swallowed this fallacy can't grasp is that competition keeps heavy pressure on drug prices except in the temporary case when a NEW and GOOD drug is developed and it's a lot better than existing treatments. For a while, the patent-holder has an advantage, until the guys at the competing drug company come up with their super-duper treatment that cuts into the market for the first drug.
Then prices come down. But to recoup the huge R&D costs and earn a profit, the drug companies market their products to people who need them, people whose health will benefit from them.
What you can't grasp is that advertising increases revenue and profit by putting these good curatives in the hands of more and more patients who need them.
It's really that simple. Getting the word out. Getting the drugs to the people who need them.
But based on your opposition to spending money to market drugs, it's pretty clear you'd let people die before telling them that better medications are available.
You wrongly concluded:
"But then, as you well know, in the capitalist system, marketing is king."
Incorrect. Making quality products is the royal goal. Without marketing, however, consumers wouldn't know which way to turn.
The article addresses off-label use of drugs. At worst, drugs used in off-label scenarios show less efficacy than more appropriate medications.
Exactly what is the problem?
If the problem is really that doctors are accepting some form of compensation from drug companies to prescribe drugs that may not offer the best results to patients, then tackle that issue.
Off-label use of drugs does not violate any laws. And there's no indication of adverse health effects for patients.
Meanwhile, because it is possible for anyone to research any drug on the internet, patients owe it to themselves to read about the medications they take.
"I showed your comments to me wife (a pharmacist from a family of doctors) - she nearly pissed herself."
There are treatments for incontinence. Meanwhile, pharmacists might get feedback from customers on prescribed drugs, and doctors might know how specific drugs have affected their patients, but that's not equivalent to knowing something about the business of pharmaceutical companies.
"How do you know that a drug is better, given your limited knowledge of medicines?"
The efficacy of a drug is tracked. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. If a drug is effective enough to receive FDA approval and it improves the health of patients it will develop a market until a better alternative displaces it.
Of course the company will attempt to protect its market share as long as possible.
Again, what's the problem? He did what he believed he should do. However, it's not clear that he accomplished anything more than netting himself over $25 million.
Are you sure he wasn't motivated by the money? Really? Some guys go cheap. They'll take the tickets to the sports events, the dinners, the weekends away. But some people shoot for the moon. Maybe that's what Franklin did.
He didn't save any lives as far as I can tell, but he surely improved his own.
Yeah, I can't think of a couple of guys I would trust less than two rip-off artists who know how to con juries into multi-million dollar awards for people who never knew they had a problem till these two lawyers diagnosed it for them.
The list of cases in which corporations were hammered despite the fact that no consumer was actually harmed is quite long. The gabapentin case is merely one of them.
"Those old bastards can go on the internet and find out about the drugs they are prescribed."
Is that it? You say old people are bastards. You're a charitable guy. But you make this claim in the context of drug companies fooling those old people?
One change in the doctor/patient landscape over the past 20 years is the loss of stature of doctors. Ask one. He/she will tell you.
Patients demand much more. They don't think doctors are above question. They want to feel confident their doctor isn't a quack. With that in mind, patients have made extensive use of the internet where they've learned enough to become amateur MDs.
Good or bad, people have learned a lot about medicine and how to get the best for themselves.
Everyone I know investigates drugs their doctors have prescibed, checking them on the internet. Why not? It's easy. And sometimes kids do it for their aging parents. But that probably doesn't include you since you think those old people are bastards.
Americans have no concept of irony.
Thanks for proving us right!