Schakowsky and colleagues press Pharma execs on tax dodging, drug pricing, and stock buybacks

October 17, 2018
Press Release

This week, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and 15 of her colleagues sent letters to the CEOs of five large pharmaceutical corporations that benefit from corporate tax breaks and publicly-funded research, demanding answers to the problem of soaring prescription drug prices.  The five corporations – Amgen, AbbVie, Eli Lilly, Merck and Pfizer – each benefitted from last year’s GOP tax bill, with one-time tax cuts on offshore products ranging from $4 billion (AbbVie) to over $25 billion (Pfizer).   The House members wanted to know why, despite receiving massive amounts of U.S. taxpayer support, the corporations are charging prices that place life-saving medications out of the reach of many Americans. 

Drug companies are making record profits and receiving government benefits left and right while everyday Americans have to decide between paying rent and buying the medicines their family members need to survive. As my colleagues and I said in our letters, a life-saving drug is 100% ineffective when it is unaffordable. It is unconscionable that these massive corporations are using their billion-dollar tax savings to benefit wealthy stockholders instead of to make their drugs more affordable. The fact that taxpayer dollars are also paying for research and development for these companies through publicly-funded research only adds insult to injury. We need answers from these PhRMA execs about why the taxpayer dollars they receive don’t benefit taxpayers – and we need them now.”

In the letters sent today, Rep. Schakowsky and her colleagues, including Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), demanded answers on how these corporations had spent their tax breaks, highlighting the fact that each of the Pharmaceutical companies (with the exception of Eli Lilly) had announced ten billion dollars’ worth of stock buybacks. Stock buybacks benefit wealthy shareholders instead of consumers struggling to afford prescription drugs. In September, Reps. Schakowsky, Pocan, and Grijalva led a similar letter to the CEO of Walmart asking why so much of their tax savings were going to stock buybacks while so little went to their workers. This week, Americans for Tax Fairness announced that the total amount of stock buybacks authorized by corporations since the Republican tax bill passed in December 2017 now exceeds $750 billion.

In today’s letters, the members asked each pharmaceutical executive a series of questions related to their use of taxpayer dollars, the pricing of their drugs, their employment practices, and their corporate spending. The members gave the CEOs until November 12th to respond to their questions. In addition to Reps. Schakowsky, Pocan, and Grijalva, the letter was signed by Reps. Kathy Castor (D-FL), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Mark Takano (D-CA), and Peter Welch (D-VT).

The letters to each of the companies can be found here: