Photo: Dianna Porter and Ed Coyle of the Alliance for Retired Americans,
and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).
On January 24, 2008 PAL held our Annual Dinner in Washington, D.C. Every year, we host this event for the organizations in the PAL Coalition, to celebrate our victories and gird ourselves to continue the fight in the year ahead against illegal drug industry tactics. Last year, we began a tradition of honoring key consumer advocates for their leadership in fighting for affordable prescription drugs and against drug industry greed.
This year we honored Dianna Porter, who recently retired as Director of Policy at the Alliance for Retired Americans, and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), for their leadership in fighting to hold drug companies accountable. PAL Director Alex Sugerman-Brozan presented them both with our first annual Blockbuster Award.. “Blockbuster” is the term used to describe a prescription drug that has more than a billion dollars a year in sales., often more due to aggressive marketing and promotion than some clinical breakthrough. We decided to name our award “The Blockbuster Award” to turn the concept on its head and suggest that our priorities should be affordability, accuracy and access, not sales figures. The recipients of the Blockbuster Award epitomize the priorities we should be striving for.
Dianna Porter has been advocating for seniors for more than 30 years. She started her career in senior advocacy as the Director of Education for the Section on Mental Health and Aging at the University of Texas Medical School. She spent two years at the U.S. Special Committee on Aging, followed by two and half years as the Public Policy Director at the National Council on the Aging. Her policy advocacy work on senior issues continued at the Older Women’s League, where she was Public Policy Director. She then took her expertise abroad, spending four years in Skopje, Macedonia, as the Director for the Macedonia Pension Reform Project. She documented her experiences in a book titled “Your Woman in Skopje: Letters from Macedonia.” In January 2001, she joined the staff of the Alliance for Retired Americans as their Director of Policy. Among her projects at the Alliance, she drafted policy positions and Congressional testimony, and analyzed pending legislation of concern to the Alliance’s members. She wrote numerous reports on senior issues, including “The Profit in Pills: A Primer on Prescription Drug Prices,” and “Outrageous Fortune: How the Drug Industry Profits from Pills.” She recently retired.
Senator Stabenow made history in 2000 when she became the first woman from the State of Michigan elected to the United States Senate. Elected to a new term in 2006, she has been appointed to the powerful Senate Finance Committee which is responsible for our nation’s taxation, health care, pension and trade policies, critical to Michigan’s future. She will continue serving on the Senate Budget and Agriculture committees and is chairing the Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Revitalization, Conservation, Forestry, and Credit.
From the County Commission to the State Legislature to the halls of Congress, she has become one of Michigan’s most accomplished leaders, leading the fight on jobs and manufacturing issues, and becoming the Senate’s “go to” person on the issue of health care and prescription drugs. She has sponsored and advocated for numerous pieces of critical legislation to increase the affordability of prescription drugs and close drug industry loopholes. These include:
- The Lower PRICED Drugs Act (Lower Prices with Increased Competition and Efficient Economic Development of Drugs), which would help lower the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs by increasing competition from generic drugs, resulting in dramatic savings for consumers, manufacturers, businesses, and taxpayers.
- The Medicare Part D Reform Act, which had provisions designed to address some of the major problems in the Medicare prescription drug plan.
- Legislation to require the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to negotiate the price of drugs paid for under Medicare Part D.
As the first woman from the State of Michigan elected to the United States Senate, Senator Stabenow was inspired to first run for office by the closing of a local nursing home. She was elected to the Ingham County Board of Commissioners in 1974 and was the youngest person and first woman to chair the Board (1977-78). She was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives where she served for twelve years (1979-90) and rose in leadership, becoming the first woman to preside over the House. She served in the State Senate for four years (1991-94). Elected to Congress in 1996 representing Michigan’s Eighth Congressional District, she won election to the U.S. Senate four years later.
We are honored to be able to highlight these two important leaders with our first annual Blockbuster Awards.