Time for political parties to break addiction to Big Pharma cash

(Victoria,12 July 2013) – Some of Canada’s provincial political parties have developed an unhealthy dependency on large campaign donations from Big Pharma, according to figures released by IntegrityBC.

IntegrityBC looked at donations from nine pharmaceutical companies and two trade associations in four provinces. Two patterns quickly emerged from the numbers: the companies and associations were not shy at opening up their wallets and their donations were heavily tilted in favour of the party in power.

In B.C. they gave a total of $247,699 to the B.C. Liberal party and $7,170 to the NDP (2005 to 2012); in Alberta they gave $176,130 to the Progressive Conservative party and $3,100 to the Liberal party (2004 to 2011); in Saskatchewan $39,351 to the Saskatchewan party and $468 to the NDP (2006 to 2012); and in Ontario $404,848 to the Ontario Liberals, $297,925 to the Progressive Conservatives and $18,483 to the NDP (2004 to 2012).

All told, the nine companies and two associations donated $1.2 million, of which a total of $868,028 went to the parties in power in each of the four provinces.

And it’s a tally that only scratches the surface of the sector’s total political philanthropy. In April, the Vancouver Sun estimated that drug companies, pharmaceutical organizations and pharmacies donated $582,549 to the Liberals and $41,850 to the NDP between 2005 and 2012.

“Big Pharma is playing too big a role in the financing of the very political parties that oversee drug safety in each of these provinces,” said IntegrityBC executive director Dermod Travis. “And it raises the obvious question whose health comes first: Big Pharma or those who need access to safe, affordable, effective medicine?”

In May, researcher William Warburton filed a lawsuit against the B.C. government that alleged there was a connection between certain pharmaceutical companies and the termination of seven Ministry of Health employees in 2012 who were working on drug-safety.

Warburton’s court filings include the allegation that “The Liberal Party was receiving significant contributions from these drug companies, and the Province was eliminating drug safety programs that could cause restrictions on sales of the products of these drug companies.”

The government denied Warburton’s claim in court documents filed later that month.