Thursday, October 12, 2006


The company Deb keeps

This photo looks pretty harmless, right?

Picture 4

Actually, it's a picture of Deb getting an award a few days ago from the Seniors Coalition.

What is the Seniors Coalition? Despite the appearance of the little-old-lady (actually "Grandma" Green, a somewhat infamous character in retirement circles), the Coalition is one of the main astro-turf groups created to lay down of smoke screens for Republicans in their effort to privatize Social Security, to evade cracking down on drug companies, to sell the problem-plagued Medicare prescription plan, etc., etc.

With multimillion dollar contributions from groups like PhRMA, the group operates by generating emails, direct mail pieces and TV ads in coordination with their GOP counterparts. If they haven't started airing already, expect to see some of the Coalition's ads in the Columbus area before election day.

In short, the Seniors Coalition is a stealth PAC that exists to add the merest veneer of credibility to those, like Pryce, who would sell out the middle class's retirement dreams in a heartbeat.

And, just to complete this story, readers may be wondering why Pryce is getting an award from the Seniors Coalition on Age-related Macular Degeneration, and what does the Coalition have to do with AMD?

We certainly don't want to minimize the seriousness of AMD. We have family members and neighbors that have some forms of the disease. Treatments via medication, especially for the most serious type of AMD (about 10% of the cases), are unfortunately very limited.

Several pharmaceutical players, however, seem to be viewing AMD as a potentially burgeoning new business as babyboomers age. (It is very important to note that there is no known prevention of AMD, but there is evidence that simple, low cost dietary and lifestyle changes can mitigate the seriousness.)

But the drug companies are thinking of new revenue streams in the billions of dollars. Regardless of their motiviation, these businesses face two hurdles: the dosage cost (as high as $2,000!) and a payment source. An important step in their business plan is to get Medicare coverage.

Short version: PhRMA pumps millions into the Seniors Coalition. PhRMA members need "consumers" to lobby in DC and gin-up concern among seniors, who will then provide the cover/leverage for Medicare to expedite approval of AMD-related drug reimbursements. Seniors Coalition puts their astro-turf machinery to work on the issue.

Remember, you heard it here first.


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