Criticism of pharmaceutical companies is intensifying as prices continue to dramatically escalate and now Pfizer has purchased an Irish drug company and will declare Ireland its home to lower its American taxes. A coalition of health advocates is planning a protest on Friday outside Pfizer’s headquarters at 42nd Street and 2nd Avenue in New York City, saying Pfizer has renounced its American citizenship in order to dodge taxes. Drug companies are benefitting from the fact that the United States health care system does not negotiate prices like in other countries which have a national health care program. While the Veterans Administration negotiates prices, the Medicare drug law of 2003 specifically forbids the program from negotiating prices. The idea was that the private insurers in Medicare would do that but they don’t get the same lower rates like the VA.
Drug companies have always resisted the importation of cheaper drugs from other countries into the United States but here is an American company Pfizer choosing to declare its home base is in Ireland to lower its taxes. If they want to do what is best for the company’s bottom line by insisting on their right to locate in another country, they should give up their opposition to drug importation that allows some patients to do what is best for their bottom line.
This is another example of how the laws are stacked against the consumer and in favor of corporate profits. Of course, Pfizer says it will use its tax savings to do more research and development that will lead to new drugs. Maybe so, but the way all the drug companies are now pricing drugs has no relationship to the costs of research and development. It is all about what they can get away with. Doctors and insurers are fighting back and now the government must clamp down. And, I should note that Pfizer is definitely not one of the worst drug companies typified by those such as Turing which bought companies producing older drugs and then jacked the price up by hundreds or thousands of dollars per year.
Today is “Giving Tuesday,” a relatively new day when charities promote end of year or holiday donations. This day came in response to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. With all the focus on shopping, charities felt the need to remind the public to give during the holiday season and spend just a little bit on helping people in need as well as supporting the voluntary sector overall. I have spent most of my career working with nonprofits and I know they are such an important part of our improving the quality of life in our communities. Today, I want to mention several that I have worked with.
So many local organizations are working in local communities to provide human services, including senior services. For example, I am doing some consulting work for Community Caregivers (www.communitycaregivers.org) based in Albany County. This is a real grassroots group of “neighbors helping neighbors,” founded in 1993 to help persons, especially elders, remain living independently in the community. Community Caregivers has a volunteer force in the hundreds serving local residents mostly by providing transportation and friendly visiting and other services. There are other groups in our region and around the state like Colonie Senior Services, Carelinks in Saratoga County, Rhinebeck at Home, Mercy Care for the Adirondacks- to name a few – doing similar work and I urge you to support them.
I am also working with Community Works of New York State (www.communityworksnys.org) which I helped to get off the ground in 1993. This federation of non profit advocacy organizations participates in payroll deduction charitable giving campaigns like the State Employees Federated Appeal (SEFA) and other local employer campaigns. New members of this group include Senior Services of Albany but the federation includes organizations providing advocacy and services on housing, nutrition and other concerns for all ages.
At the state level, there are important advocacy organizations like New York Statewide Senior Action Council (www.nysenior.org) which I led for fourteen years. Statewide has played a major role for over forty years in leading advocacy for elders on social, health and economic issues including patients rights, prescription drug coverage and protecting Medicare and Social Security.
You can give to any of these groups by going to their websites or going to the website for Network for Good, (www.networkforgood.org) a national website listing tax exempt charities.