AL GORE: Positioning Himself as Drug Industry Foe
Vice President Al Gore (D) is taking his attack against the drug industry and its high prices on the road, making an appearance in St. Louis on July 3 to speak with seniors, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) and Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan (D) will accompany Gore (7/3). In recent days, Gore has been trying to position himself as a "longtime critic" of what he calls "excessive prices and profits" of the pharmaceutical industry, the New York Times reports. In the early 1980s, when Gore represented Tennessee in the House, he "played a crucial role in defeating legislation that would have granted drug companies patent extensions on lucrative medicines." Gore said, "I don't see myself as a basher of the pharmaceutical companies. I see myself as opposing the excesses that have accompanied their enormous market power, excesses that have come at the expense of consumers." Part of the reason behind Gore's repositioning is to "sharpen the distinctions between himself" and rival Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R), who has not been as critical of the drug industry. While Gore said he opposes regulating medication prices, he does advocate policies that would cut into companies' profits and curb prices. Gore recently supported a legislative amendment passed by the House that would require drug makers to agree to reasonable prices for treatments invented in collaboration with government scientists. Similarly, he supports requiring drug companies to pay the government a fee for medications developed with the help of government agencies. Gore also supports a proposed rule that would make it more difficult for companies to use the regulatory process to delay competition and opposes legislation that would extend the patent on Claritin, the anti-allergy drug.
Nervous Industry Execs
For the most part, drug industry officials are wary of Gore and "are becoming more nervous about [him] as the presidential campaign progresses." While Gore's "support for innovation and new technology endears" drug industry executives to him, his other positions have drawn their criticism. Alan Holmer, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said, "It's truly sad to hear the vice president arguing for reducing incentives for biomedical innovation. If his rhetoric became government policy, patients would suffer. Thankfully, no one will be fooled by political posturing four months before an election." So far, Gore's stance against the drug industry is reflected in how the industry has contributed to his presidential campaign. Bush has received more contributions from drug industry executives -- $271,715 compared to Gore's $50,700 (Stolberg, New York Times, 7/1).