Bernie Sanders Rails Against Big Pharma for Deserting American Taxes

By Zachary Siegel 03/21/16

Sanders is lashing out at a proposed Big Pharma merger which he believes is "nothing less than a tax scam."

Bernie Sanders Rails Against Big Pharma for Deserting American Taxes
photo via Shutterstock/R. Gino Santa Maria

Last year, pharmaceutical super corp Pfizer Inc announced a potential merger with Ireland-based Allergan, Plc—which would result in, according to 2016 presidential underdog Bernie Sanders, the evasion of paying nearly $35 billion in corporate taxes. 

“If the merger is successful, Pfizer would technically become a foreign company, meaning it could dodge around $35 BILLION in corporate taxes here in America,” Sanders said on a petition to make Pfizer pay its taxes. A “yuge” sum indeed. 

The current corporate tax rate for a company the size of Pfizer to operate in America is 35%, according to the New Yorker. If Pfizer moves overseas to Dublin-based Allergan, the pharmaceutical titan would only pay 12.5% in corporate taxes. 

Known for manufacturing and selling Viagra, Lipitor, and Celebrex, Pfizer is a wildly profitable American drug company. Sanders, the democratic socialist who harps on corporate profiteering, sees this merger as an exemplar of everything wrong with late-capitalism in America. 

The gigantic pharma deal, valued at a $160 billion, would “create a leading global pharmaceutical company with the strength to research, discover and deliver more medicines and therapies to more people around the world,” said Ian Read, the Scottish-born CEO of Pfizer, in 2015 when the deal was first announced. While this sounds like a noble direction for the company to take, Sanders—along with many others—sees the primary motivation for the merger to be profit, and as such, a grave economic injustice. 

“I find it ironic,” wrote Sanders in a statement last Friday, “that some of my Republican colleagues, in their internal budget negotiations, claim that $30 billion in deficit-reduction is required for the coming fiscal year. Preventing the inversion planned by just one company, Pfizer, could produce more deficit-reduction than the cuts they are demanding.”

The icing on the cake—for Pfizer at least—is the $5 billion it made from contracts with the U.S. government in the past five years. Because of tax credits and other perquisites enjoyed by CEOs, American taxpayers are out $21 million in subsidies to Pfizer executives like Read, according to a February report by Americans for Tax Fairness.  

“Enough is enough,” Sanders lamented. “Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies cannot be allowed to evade taxes and rip off American patients who already pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.” 

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.