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Dr. Mehmet Oz

CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Television personality turned Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz has often tried to present himself as a crusader against the pharmaceutical industry and high drug prices. But he accepted the legal maximum donation from a controversial pharmaceutical executive who once defended massive price hikes as "a moral requirement," according to recent campaign finance documents.

Oz's Federal Election Commission filing for the first quarter of 2022 showed that his campaign accepted $5,800 in donations from Nirmal Mulye, the founder and president of Nostrum Pharmaceuticals, on March 31.

In 2018, Mulye's company decided to more than quadruple the price of its liquid nitrofurantoin — an essential antibiotic used to treat some urinary tract infections — from $474.75 a bottle to $2,392 a bottle.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mulye defended the price-gouging as market-driven, saying, "I think it is a moral requirement to make money when you can ... to sell the product for the highest price."

Oz has tried to convince voters that he has fought against Big Tech and Big Pharma, despite the fact that he and his wife hold millions of dollars worth of stock in companies representing both industries.

In a November Fox News interview, Oz told host Sean Hannity, "I fought to empower my audience, my patients, and now the voters of Pennsylvania, and I've taken on Big Pharma. I've gone to battle with big tech. I've gone up against agrochem companies, the big ones, right? I've got scars to prove it. And I cannot be bought."

His campaign website claims that as a cardiothoracic surgeon, Oz understands how to fix the health care system:

He’s bravely argued against costly drugs, even as it made him a target of drug companies. As a U.S. Senator, he’ll work to dismantle policies that lead to more expensive prescription drugs for our seniors, and he’ll expand access to private sector plans expanded by President Trump and beloved by seniors for their low costs and high quality that could be available to all Americans who want them.

Earlier this month, Donald Trump endorsed Oz, arguing that his being a celebrity doctor qualified him to serve as a senator. "You know when you're in television for 18 years, that's like a poll," Trump said. "That means people like you."

Trump's own FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, once slammed Mulye's comments and approach to pricing.

"There's no moral imperative to price gouge and take advantage of patients," Gottlieb tweeted in response to the Financial Times story. "FDA will continue to promote competition so speculators and those with no regard to public health consequences can’t take advantage of patients who need medicine."

Spokespeople for the Oz campaign and Mulye's company did not immediately respond to inquiries for this story.

Oz, a long-time New Jersey resident and host of the syndicated Dr. Oz Show, announced his candidacy last November for retiring Republican Pat Toomey's open Pennsylvania Senate seat. He is one of several GOP candidates running for the Republican nomination.

An April Franklin and Marshall College poll found Oz narrowly ahead, with 16 percent support. Connecticut-based hedge fund executive turned Pennsylvania candidate Dave McCormick was close behind, with 15 percent.

The general election is considered a toss-up by election experts.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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