Big pharma and drug lobbyists are 'courting' Kyrsten Sinema as the 'lead blocker' on pricing reform: report
Senator Kyrsten Sinema during a 2019 event. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

It is no coincidence that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona is often mentioned in the same sentence as Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Sinema and Manchin are among the Democrats who have the most conservative voting records in the U.S. Senate. And according to Guardian reporters Andrew Perez and David Sirota, that fact isn't lost on lobbyists for pharmaceutical companies.

In an article published by The Guardian on October 11, Perez and Sirota report, "In the current Congress, big pharma appears to have zeroed in on Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat from Arizona, as one of their lead obstructionists to help kill or gut the Democrats' drug pricing plan. In the 2020 election cycle, pharmaceutical political action committees suddenly funneled more money to her than they did the whole six years she served in the U.S. House."

The 45-year-old Sinema, a Tucson native, served in Arizona State Legislature before serving three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. But when she was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2018, defeating Republican nominee Martha McSally, it marked the first time she won a statewide race for a position in the federal government. In the Joe Biden era, Sinema is a swing vote who can make or break Democratic bills — and progressive Democrats view Sinema as an obstacle to their hopes of reducing drug prices in the United States.

Perez and Sirota explain, "It's clear now that the pharmaceutical industry has been courting Sinema for some time. Indeed, in March 2021, as pharmaceutical PAC money was flooding into her campaign coffers, drug lobbyists were already bragging to Beltway reporters that they may have found their lead blocker in Sinema."

The Arizona senator, according to Perez and Sirota, "has studiously avoided giving the public any details about where she stands on virtually any of the policy proposals in Democrats' reconciliation legislation — refusing to speak with activists, reporters, or even other Democratic lawmakers."

In the past, Sinema campaigned on lowering drug prices in the United States — where people pay a lot more for prescription drugs than residents of European countries. But in 2021, Perez and Sirota report, big pharma views Sinema as a possible ally.

"Over the course of her career," the Guardian reporters note, "Sinema has accepted more than $500,000 from executives and PACs in the pharmaceutical and health products industries, according to data from OpenSecrets. By March 2021, big pharma wasn't just quietly funneling money to Sinema; the industry was publicly signaling that the senator could be its lead blocker in the fight to prevent the government from negotiating drug prices."