Sunday, November 05, 2006

Tuesday's US election - British Big Pharma "do their bit"

Executives at the UK's three biggest pharmaceuticals companies have been funnelling thousands of dollars from their personal fortunes to help the re-election campaigns of industry-friendly politicians in the US.

David Brennan
, the chief executive of AstraZeneca, has emerged as one of the most generous donors to candidates in the midterm elections, in which drug prices have emerged as a big political issue. He and his wife have contributed a total of $31,000 (£16,000) to individual politicians and to Republican party schemes such as the Majority Initiative to Keep Electing Republicans.

Mr Brennan said he "supports candidates who recognise and value the importance of innovative medicines and innovative companies in enhancing people's health".

A Democrat takeover of the House of Representatives - which still seems odds-on, according to weekend polls - could trigger an assault on the pharmaceuticals industry and would likely unseat several of its staunchest defenders.

Political candidates are required to publish details of all donations, which are capped at $10,000 from any single source. Donations may include straightforward cheques or payments for attendance at breakfasts and dinners used as industry networking events.

The chairman of Shire Pharmaceuticals, James Cavanaugh, has together with his wife, contributed $36,500 to the Republican Party and to candidates in Pennsylvania, where the company recently located its North American headquarters thanks to tax and training grants negotiated with local politicians.

And all of GlaxoSmithKline's US-based senior executives, including the company's French chief executive, Jean-Pierre Garnier, have contributed four-figure sums to political campaigns.

According to an analysis of data compiled by the Centre for Responsive Politics, Mr Garnier had donated a total of $5,000 to the campaigns of three sitting Senators, including one Democrat, since the start of the current electoral cycle two years ago.

More at The Independent

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