Rx DRUG COSTS: Seniors Plan Rally, Pfizer Protest
A group of about 800 seniors, organized by the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, are expected to rally today in Boston, site of tomorrow's first presidential debate, in an effort to "get the presidential candidates...talking about real issues facing seniors" such as prescription drug prices, the Boston Herald reports. The event is scheduled to begin with a summit in Dorchester, Mass., and end with a protest outside of Pfizer Inc. in Cambridge. Phil Mamber, Senior Action Council president, said that neither Vice President Al Gore nor rival Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R) has proposed a plan to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare that is "adequate" or addresses rising drug prices. Pfizer plans to hold a news conference this morning to "defend" the pharmaceutical industry, the Herald reports. Company spokesperson Kate Robins said, "Pfizer strongly agrees that there must be expanded access to innovative prescription drugs. This is a major campaign issue and it's something we feel very strongly that voters need to understand." She said, however, that price controls would "dampen investment in development, leading to fewer new drugs." The keynote speaker at the Dorchester summit will be Rep. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) (Powell, Boston Herald, 10/2).
Rally Could Put Lieberman in Spotlight
The rally could "unwittingly put an uncomfortable spotlight" today on vice presidential nominee Sen. Joseph Lieberman's (D-Conn.) ties to Pfizer, a second Boston Herald article reports. Lieberman has received considerable Senate campaign contributions from Pfizer and has been an "outspoken advocate" for the company. Lieberman recently attended a groundbreaking at Pfizer research headquarters in Groton, Conn., and praised the company for "doing the Lord's work," according to a Pfizer newsletter. Moreover, Lieberman's wife, Hadassah, was a Pfizer executive in the early 1980s and last year owned between $15,000 and $50,000 in company stock. Though "top Democrats" and Gore supporters will participate in the Boston rally, the Herald reports that the protest "could draw attention to Lieberman's close ties to Pfizer at a time when Democrat Al Gore is trying to score points on the prescription drug issue." One of the planned speakers includes Steve Protrulis, a "top Gore-Lieberman operative on Florida" and head of the AFL-CIO's Florida campaign for Gore. But Geoffrey Wilkinson, executive director of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, said that the group is nonpartisan and that the rally is meant to "give a hard message to both parties. We're not attacking any candidates or supporting any candidates here." Wilkinson said that in organizing the event, he was aware of Lieberman's ties to Pfizer, and added, "Both the Democratic and Republican parties are taking a tremendous amount of money from the pharmaceutical industry" (Battenfeld, Boston Herald, 10/2).