PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Robert Flanders has called on Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, the two-term incumbent, to return close to $50,000 in contributions from people and groups with ties to the pharmaceutical industry, in light of the lawsuit that 26 Rhode Island cities and towns filed this week against major drug manufacturers.
The lawsuit accuses the drug manufacturers of conspiring to generate enormous profits while spurring the nationwide opioid epidemic.
Warwick, Cranston, North Providence, Charlestown, Jamestown and a host of other towns filed suit this week in U.S. District Court arguing the AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals, and other drug companies engaged in a racketeering conspiracy by manufacturing and marketing the powerful narcotics at devastating societal costs.
Flanders, a former Rhode Island Supreme Court justice, issued this statement on Wednesday:
“Sen. Whitehouse should be ashamed of himself for keeping contributions from Big Pharma companies that are now being sued for their use of deceptive marketing tactics. Not only has he profited from Big Pharma companies, he has also made it harder for the Drug Enforcement Agency to prevent opioid abuse with the passage of his bill that derailed the DEA’s war on painkillers.”
Flanders keyed his remarks, in part, to contributions that the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics says have been made to Whitehouse by PACs affiliated with three defendants: AmerisouceBergen Drug Corp. ($25,000), Cardinal Health ($15,000), and McKesson Corp. ($10,000).
“Hundreds of Rhode Island families have been destroyed by drugs that are flooding our communities,” Flanders said. “If Sen. Whitehouse doesn’t return or donate every penny he received from these pay-to-play companies, he evidently cares more about lining his pockets than the health and safety of the citizens of Rhode Island.”
There was no immediate response from Whitehouse to Flanders’ allusion to his stock transactions. But Whitehouse has, in the past, denied that he had a direct role in buying shares in pharmaceutical companies last fall at the same time that Congress was finalizing the 21st Century Cures Act, a major medical-research bill.
After the stock transactions by Whitehouse and others were brought to light by Politico, his spokeswoman Meaghan McCabe issued this statement: “Trades made in the senator’s account are conducted by a financial advisor without any input from the senator or his family.”
Whitehouse himself told Politico, “I don’t decide on, neither am I even informed of, trades that are made in my account.”
In a statement issued Wednesday evening, McCabe did not address Flanders’ call for Whitehouse to return the contributions, but said: “Every decision Senator Whitehouse makes in Congress is guided by one thing: what is best for the people of Rhode Island. …
“Since the bill was passed, the DEA has provided Congress with no evidence that the law’s provisions have diminished the agency’s ability to crack down on bad actors. … The law requires the relevant federal agencies to issue a report on the implementation of the bill. If that report raises concerns, Senator Whitehouse will take them into consideration and work to strike a better balance.”FacebookTwitterGoogle +