Though the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says it paid for the ads -- which are airing in 10 states -- a spokesman has refused to disclose whether or not the Chamber received funds from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), an organization representing the pharmaceutical industry. The commercials, designed in support of local congressmen and senators, say the Medicare drug program has saved hundreds of thousands of Medicare recipient's money since its inception.
Democrats have used the disclosure to charge that the Medicare prescription drug benefit amounts to a plan engineered by Republicans to make more money for drug firms.
"There's a civics lesson here from the drug companies," says Bill Burton, spokesman for the House Democratic campaign organization. "They write checks to protect their GOP friends, and then they write the laws to benefit themselves -- all the while doctors are writing prescriptions middle-class Americans can't afford."
Ken Johnson, senior vice president of PhRMA, issued a statement that failed to elaborate on the issue: "[PhRMA] works with a variety of groups, including patient advocacy groups and business organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others, to support policies that improve access to life-saving medicines."
"The depth of collusion among lawmakers, drug companies and government organizations is nothing less than astonishing," said Mike Adams, a critic of the pharmaceutical industry and author of Take Back Your Health Power. "That they would all conspire to create false advertising that misleads the American people into thinking they're getting a good deal on overpriced drugs is not at all surprising," he added. "Today's pharmaceutical industry is based almost entirely on propaganda, fraudulent science, corruption of government officials, disease mongering and the art of distorting public perception in order to maximize corporate profits."