Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has clapped back at critics calling them sexist, following her Big Pharma comments that were dismissed by an expert of the industry, who called her knowledge “inadequate,” Newsweek reported.
“This is what being a woman in politics looks like: Disagreements aren’t labeled as differing opinions. They’re labeled as one’s knowledge being ‘inadequate’,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Monday.
The situation escalated during a hearing on medicine prices, after Ocasio-Cortez voiced criticism towards pharmaceutical giant Big Pharma, questioning whether the company was making profits from the National Institutes of Health’s output.
During the hearing, Ocasio-Cortez asked Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, an associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, whether taxpayers could be considered “early investor[s]” in research and development for medicine through the NIH and, if so, whether they are receiving “any sort of direct return on that investment from the highly profitable drugs that are developed from that research?”
Kesselheim confirmed that the public does not receive any direct return, asserting that “when those products are eventually handed off to a for-profit company, there aren’t licensing deals that bring money back into the coffers of the NIH. That usually doesn’t happen.”
“So, the public is acting as an early investor, putting tons of money in the development of drugs that then become privatized, and then they receive no return on the investment that they have made,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
“Right,” Kesselheim responded.
“Rep. Ocasio-Cortez: It is absolutely your job to participate in hearings like the above, to question those appearing at them, and to look into such issues,” industry expert Dr. Derek Lowe wrote. “But, it’s also your job to know as much about these issues as you can.”
“Right now, your knowledge of where drugs come from appears to be seriously inadequate. To be fair, you’re definitely not alone in that, but there’s no reason not to learn more,” Lowe continued. “Unless you, like many of your colleagues on both sides of the aisle, are mostly interested in generating zippy sound bites and looking dynamic for the next round of fund-raising and the next election. In which case, carry on. But that would be sad.”
In his commentary, Lowe expressed frustration with “the persistent idea that pretty much all drugs are discovered either at the NIH or with NIH funds, whereupon Big Pharma comes in, scoops them up for beads and trinkets, comes up with a catchy name and goes off to reap the big tall stacks of cash.”