Michael Milken, from junk bonds to legislative advocate

By Sheila Kaplan, Boston Globe via STAT
September 14, 2015
WASHINGTON — Nearly 1,200 lobbyists roamed the halls of Congress this year, trying to shape legislation to speed up the federal approval of new drugs and expand medical research. But the advocate who arguably has had the biggest impact on the process isn’t a registered lobbyist at all. It’s onetime junk bond king Michael Milken.


He has pushed his agenda with a muted public presence, one that stresses quiet messaging over press releases and networking over campaign contributions. His goal is passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, a bill that would accelerate regulators’ review of new medical treatments and boost funding for the National Institutes of Health by nearly $9 billion over five years.


Not everyone is pleased with Milken’s behind-the-scenes advocacy. While supporters say the Cures Act, a version of which was passed by the House in July, would make it cheaper and faster to get cutting-edge drugs and medical devices to patients, critics warn that it would create dangerous regulatory shortcuts. They fear that Milken is doing the bidding of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the drug industry’s main trade group.

“This is a bill that has many provisions that are exactly what PhRMA wants and what the device companies want,” said Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research, a nonprofit think tank in Washington.

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