Capturing the Government: Big Pharma’s Take Over of Policymaking

New brief explores how drug companies influence policymakers and the resulting harm in patient outcomes

Today, the Roosevelt Institute released the issue brief, “The Cost of Capture: How the Pharmaceutical Industry has Corrupted Policy Makers and Harmed Patients,” which outlines how the pharmaceutical industry has skewed policymaking through corporate capture, a form of corruption in which industry—in prioritizing profits over patients—exerts undue influence over policymakers at the expense of public interest. Written by Roosevelt Fellow Julie Margetta Morgan and Advocacy and Policy Associate Devin Duffy, the brief maps out how underhanded industry tactics, such as lobbying and skewed medical research, plague our health care system, endanger patients, and ultimately jeopardize our economy.

“Most Americans intuitively understand that powerful companies are able to promote their interests in Washington, but we rarely get to see just how that influence-peddling affects our daily lives,” said Margetta Morgan. “This report illustrates just how much power drug companies exert over our policymakers, and really our democracy. We can’t ensure affordable life-saving drugs for all Americans until we fix that dynamic.”

Specifically, the brief examines how the industry captures the regulatory apparatus and policymaking process via:

  • Lobbying and campaign contributions;
  • The revolving door between government service and pharmaceutical industry positions;
  • Funding medical research and medical researchers; and
  • Financially supporting nominally “independent” organizations like some patient advocacy groups that promote their interests.

“The capture of our government by the pharmaceutical industry has societal consequences beyond drug price and health safety. In fact, few Americans know that rising costs of prescription drugs have forced local governments to make spending cuts in areas like education, infrastructure, and other social services to spend more on health care and health programs,” said Duffy. “With enough organization, energy, and advocacy, Americans can reclaim their political system and demand policymakers represent the interests of patients and public health.”

The brief follows on the heels of “Profit Over Patients: How the Rules of our Economy Encourage the Pharmaceutical Industry’s Extractive Behavior,” which examines the role that the pharmaceutical industry plays in high drug costs. The third and fourth brief in this series are expected in summer 2019.

About the Roosevelt Institute

The Roosevelt Institute, a New York-based think tank, promotes bold policy reforms that would redefine the American economy and our democracy. With a focus on curbing corporate power and reclaiming public power, Roosevelt is helping people understand that the economy is shaped by choices—via institutions and the rules that structure markets—while also exploring the economics of race and gender and the changing 21st-century economy. Roosevelt is armed with a transformative vision for the future, working to move the country toward a new economic and political system: one built by many for the good of all.

To keep up to date with the Roosevelt Institute, please visit us on Twitter or follow our work at #RewriteTheRules.