Vocal pricing critic Clinton rakes in big campaign dollars from Big Pharma

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has been taking on the pharma industry during her campaign, laying out tough proposals meant to shield consumers from skyrocketing drug prices. But as it turns out, Clinton is also taking drugmakers' funding.

The Democratic frontrunner has collected more money from the drug industry than any other presidential candidate in either party during the first 6 months of the campaign, or $164,315, according to figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics for The Boston Globe. That doesn't include third-quarter contributions that were filed with the Federal Election Commission last week, and the $164,315 number covers mostly individual donors with ties to the industry.

For example, Clinton got contributions from Jazz Pharmaceuticals' ($JAZZ) CEO Bruce Cozadd and senior VP Robert McKague, who each gave the maximum individual amount allowed, or $2,700. Jazz has hiked up the price of its narcolepsy drug Xyrem by more than 800% from about $2 to $19, the Boston Globe article points out, making it a textbook case for the price increases Clinton is railing against.

Clinton is staying quiet about the pharma campaign contributions, with spokesman Josh Schwerin saying that she is "committed to protecting consumers from drug companies who put profits ahead of people." At least by the look of things, those words ring true. Last month, Clinton unveiled proposals to combat the rising price of drugs, suggesting caps on drugs, allowing Medicare to negotiate pricing and letting Americans buy drugs from other countries that offer them at lower prices.

This week, Clinton sent a letter to FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez, urging the agency to address price gouging and to investigate Turing Pharma's now infamous price hikes for toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim. She also sent a letter to FDA Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff, encouraging regulators to expedite generics that would help bring down costs, including for Daraprim.

"Patients who rely on this treatment should not have their health and lives put at risk because of an unnecessarily anticompetitive market, and the FDA should act through all of its available authorities to remedy this situation as soon as feasible," Clinton said in her letter to the agency.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Clinton is not the only candidate taking shots at the drug industry. Clinton's competitor Sen. Bernie Sanders also has a few words to say about drug pricing, rolling out a bill earlier this month with Rep. Elijah Cummings to take aim at rising costs. Sanders' bill includes proposals that would allow for Medicare negotiations, and would also stamp out so-called pay-for-delay deals that let companies delay competition by extending patent exclusivity.

And Sanders has collected a dollar or two from the industry, but far fewer than his Democratic rival--$8,346 from affiliates during the first 6 months of the campaign, the Globe reports. Last week, Sanders rejected a $2,700 donation from Turing Pharma CEO Martin Shkreli, who became the poster child for pharma's drug-price controversy after jacking up the price tag on Daraprim by more than 5000%.

Sanders doesn't usually have a problem accepting contributions from individual industry donors, according to the Boston Globe story. "We don't accept pharmaceutical PAC checks. Never have. Never will. But if you work as a drug researcher or hold another job and support Bernie, we welcome your help," campaign spokesman Michael Briggs told the newspaper.

Republican candidates are also roping in pharma contributions, rounding out the other top 5 spots on the Center for Responsive Politics' list of recipients. Ted Cruz collected $96,045, Marco Rubio got $52,430, Jeb Bush scored $50,700 and Lindsey Graham brought in $19,200 from the industry for his campaign, The Boston Globe reports.

- read the Boston Globe story
- here's Clinton's letter to the FTC (PDF)
- and here's Clinton's note to the FDA (PDF)

Special Reports: The top 10 most expensive drugs of 2013 | 10 big brands keep pumping out big bucks, with a little help from price hikes - Xyrem, Jazz Pharmaceuticals