PhRMA got the doughnut we got the hole

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A group of 75 seniors found the doors of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America’s headquarters here locked against them as they attempted to deliver a basket of doughnut holes Sept. 22. “PhRMA got the doughnut — we got the hole,” they chanted outside the office building.

Many of the retirees had come from out of town to demonstrate on “Part D Doughnut Hole Day.” They called for changes to Medicare Part D, the section that supposedly covers the cost of medications.

“Today is the day all of us have been dreading, when 7 million Americans fall into the doughnut hole,” declared Joan Lee, president of the Sacramento Chapter of the Gray Panthers. That many Medicare recipients have already used $2,250 in drug coverage and now must pay the full cost of their medications (in addition to the Medicare Part D premium) until their medication cost totals $5,100 or the next calendar year starts. Most seniors will never qualify to get out of the doughnut hole, Lee said. “People are being forced to choose between food and medicine.”

“PhRMA is making huge profits, while they are tearing apart Medicare as we know it,” said Nan Brasmer of the California Association of Retired Americans. She added, “If the law allowed Medicare to bargain for lower drug prices, it would have filled the doughnut hole.”

“The drug companies have to realize what they are doing to retired people,” said Betty Perry of the Older Women’s League.

PhRMA has launched a $10 million ad campaign via the Chamber of Congress to help vulnerable members of Congress who voted for the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, news services report. The pharmaceutical industry, which helped write Part D, is recording record profits thanks to the new program, and has already funneled more than $12.7 million to largely Republican candidates in the 2006 election cycle.

After the rally, the group went to the nearby California State Capitol to urge Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign 16 important bills passed by the state Legislature, including single-payer health care, nursing home patients’ rights and an increase in the minimum wage.

Roberta Wood contributed to this article.