Dem VP pick Kaine jetted to Aspen on pharma's dime, and the $12K gift from Teva's Barr is raising eyebrows

There’s been plenty of scrutiny in recent years of pharma’s gifts to doctors. But it's gifts to politicians--one, in particular--that have been in the spotlight since presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced her VP pick Friday.

In 2006, Barr Pharmaceutical, now a part of Teva ($TEVA), flew Clinton running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)--then the governor of Virginia--to a meeting in Aspen, CO, on a private jet, state records seen by The New York Times show. That flight was worth $12,000, according to Kaine’s disclosure report, and it came at a time when Barr execs were lobbying Kaine to pen a letter to the FDA on its behalf.

Kaine signed a letter to U.S. regulators--as requested by Barr--before taking the flight, the NYT notes. And as email correspondence from a governor’s aide shows, a company lobbyist was prepared to follow up with Kaine during the flight.

Lobbyist Phil Smith “will likely speak with Gov about him sending a letter in support of the petition in Aspen this weekend, hence this email to ya’ll,” aide Eileen Filler-Corn wrote in an August 2006 email.

The flight and other gifts Kaine pocketed during his governor stint were legal under Virginia’s laws at the time because they were disclosed, the Times points out. And as Kaine spokeswoman Amy Dudley told the paper, “many governors at the time believed, as then-Governor Kaine did, that more widespread use of generic drugs would reduce state and federal health care costs without compromising the quality of care.”

But critics have raised red flags over the gift’s timing. “It would be naïve to think a pharmaceutical company like Teva was not interested in maintaining access to the governor as a result of a gift of that size,” Andrew Miller, a lobbyist and former Democratic attorney general in Virginia, told the NYT.

The issue has already triggered backlash from Clinton opponent Donald Trump, who dubbed the former governor “Corrupt Kaine” on Friday night.

Meanwhile, Teva recently made big strides in getting its voice heard in Washington. Last week, industry trade group PhRMA welcomed the Israeli generics giant into its ranks--despite complaints from peers such as AbbVie ($ABBV), who argued that the presence of a generics powerhouse on the group’s roster would lead to disputes with brand-only drugmakers.

- read the NYT story (sub. req.)

Special ReportTop 20 generics companies by 2014 revenue - Teva

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