Sanders asks Treasury to 'block' Pfizer and Allergan merger

Sen. Bernie Sanders

In between campaign stops, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders is finding time to keep pressure on the pharmaceutical industry. This time he is pushing the U.S. Treasury Department to try to stop Pfizer's ($PFE) $160 billion tax-avoiding merger with Dublin-based Allergan ($AGN).

Sanders has asked the Treasury to try to undermine the deal by removing some of the tax strategies, including "hopscotch loans" that companies use after a so-called tax inversion like this one to return offshore profits to shareholders, according to his letter to the department.

"Blocking this inversion would not only be sound fiscal policy, it would also act as a strong deterrent to other companies that are contemplating similar tax scams," Sanders, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said in his letter.

He pointed to estimates from a tax fairness group stating that stopping the merger would save the U.S. about $35 billion in lost taxes, although some economists have questioned that estimate.

The Treasury, which already has twice made rule changes in an effort to make such deals less palatable, acknowledged receiving the letter and said the department would respond "in due course," The Washington Post reported.

Hillary Clinton, Sanders' rival for the Democratic nomination, as well as Republican front-runner Donald Trump, have also condemned Pfizer and its tax-avoidance scheme.

Sanders also has attacked rising drug prices, introducing legislation that, among other things, would allow the government to negotiate for lower drug prices. On top of that, he asked Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald to break the patents on Gilead's ($GILD) hepatitis C treatment Sovaldi using a wartime provision aimed at fighting profiteering, because the VA had been unable to make it available to all veterans with hepatitis C because of the med's high costs. While the VA has not tried to quash Gilead's patents, this month it said that it would use a recent budget boost to offer the med to all vets regardless of their stage of the disease.

- here's the Sanders letter to Treasury
- read more from The Washington Post (sub. req.)

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