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Clinton takes in big money from drug industry

Hillary Clinton greeted supporters at a town meeting at Keene State College in New Hampshire. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

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WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton has said she is proud to have drug companies as her enemies – but she is also taking their money. Lots of it.

The Clinton campaign received far more money from the drug and medical device industries than any other presidential candidate in either party during the first six months of the campaign, according to figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. She accepted $164,315 during that period.

The figures don’t include the third-quarter contributions, which were filed with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday. They represent mostly individual donors affiliated with the pharmaceutical industry, as well as some political action committee money.


The donors also include two senior executives of a company that recently imposed a massive price increase on one of its drugs.

Drug prices are fast becoming one of the hottest issues in the Democratic presidential primary, with both Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders promising to crack down on the drug companies that have hiked prices for hard-to-treat diseases – and in some cases, widely used medications that have been around for decades.

On Thursday, Sanders rejected a $2,700 contribution from Martin Shkreli, the chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals, who famously raised the price of a drug used by cancer and AIDS patients to $750 a pill. His decision came after Stat brought the contribution to the attention of the campaign.

Clinton, like Sanders, has taken a hard line against the pharmaceutical industry. She has already outlined a plan to crack down on drug prices.

At the same time, she has accepted significant contributions from individual donors. She received contributions, for example, from two executives at Jazz Pharmaceuticals, which raised the price of a drug used to treat sleep disorders by more than 800 percent, from roughly $2 to $19 a pill.


Each of the executives, chief executive Bruce Cozadd and Robert McKague, a senior vice president, contributed the maximum individual amount, $2,700.

Asked whether Clinton would continue to accept contributions from pharmaceutical executives, spokesman Josh Schwerin said she is “committed to protecting consumers from drug companies who put profits ahead of people.”

During the Democratic presidential candidate debate on Tuesday, when asked which enemy they are proudest to have, both Sanders and Clinton mentioned drug companies.

Some liberal activists believe she should stop taking the industry’s money.

“I do think she should give it back,” said Roger Hickey, co-director of Campaign for America’s Future, a liberal group that wants all of the presidential candidates to fight rising drug prices. “She should show that she’s serious about cutting out the influence of the drug companies so she can be sure that her reforms will be fair.”

“This is one of those issues where voters want to get beyond the sound bites,” Hickey said. “The Democratic Party has a sad history of saying one thing during election years and doing another when they’re in power.”

Even Sanders has taken some money affiliated with the pharmaceutical industry, though -- $8,346 in the first six months of the campaign. The Sanders campaign said it has no problem with individual donors who work in the industry.

“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,” said campaign spokesman Michael Briggs.


Not everyone thinks it will be a problem if Clinton keeps taking the contributions. John Rother, who heads the Coalition for Sustainable Rx Pricing, noted that Clinton still proposed a detailed plan to rein in drug prices despite the campaign contributions. Her plan would limit the amount consumers would pay out of pocket for prescription drugs, allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and let people import cheaper drugs from other countries.

“I think it’s admirable that even though she’s accepting the money, she’s still taking them on,” said Rother. “I’m sure it’s something that makes the pharmaceutical industry very uncomfortable.”

Among presidential candidates, the other top five recipients of money from the pharmaceutical industry were all Republicans: Ted Cruz took in $96,045, while Marco Rubio accepted $52,430, Jeb Bush got $50,700, and Lindsey Graham received $19,200.

Bush received more money than any other candidate from outside groups affiliated with the presidential campaigns. Those groups raked in $1.2 million in the first six months of the election, compared with $801,900 for groups affiliated with Clinton.

Polls have shown, however, that rising drug prices are an increasingly urgent issue for Democratic and Republican voters, as well as independents.

Most drug company officials declined to comment on the implications of Clinton’s campaign contributions. But Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America, the main drug industry trade group, which said Clinton’s drug prices proposal would “turn back the clock on medical innovation,” said it’s happy to work with both parties.


“PhRMA has a long history of supporting and working with candidates and policymakers on both sides of the aisle and we will continue to do so,” said spokeswoman Tina Stow.

Rother said the political reality is that sometimes, interest groups just like to give money to the front-runner.

“She’s the early favorite,” he said of Clinton. “Sometimes people want to make a contribution early to get in the door.”

Sheila Kaplan and Ike Swetlitz contributed to this report.

David Nather can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @DavidNather. Follow Stat on Twitter: @statnews.