One of President-elect Joe Biden's closest advisers, Steve Ricchetti, could potentially face pressure to recuse himself from working on some of the incoming administration's key policy efforts due to his brother's recent lobbying work on behalf of pharmaceutical companies.
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Ricchetti, Biden's campaign chairman, who was recently named counselor to the president in the incoming administration, previously worked for years as a registered lobbyist, forming a company with his brother Jeff called Ricchetti Inc. in 2001, with a client list that included big names like General Motors, Pfizer and Eli Lilly.
While Steve Ricchetti hasn't lobbied since before Biden became vice president in 2009, his brother Jeff recently began representing pharmaceutical companies Horizon Therapeutics in August and GlaxoSmithKline in September while Biden was campaigning for president, according to lobbying disclosure reports.
Jeff Ricchetti currently lobbies Congress on behalf of GSK regarding “drug pricing and Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement,” according to a registration form. Meanwhile, Horizon’s lobbying registration form notes Ricchetti will focus on issues related to Medicaid rebates and drug pricing.
In addition, Neurocrine Biosciences and Eagle Pharmaceuticals brought Ricchetti on toward the end stages of the presidential election. Neurocrine Bioscience's registration form says Ricchetti will lobby for Neurocrine on issues pertaining to “drug discovery and development, pricing and access, reimbursement.” Eagle's registration form says Ricchetti will lobby on issues pertaining to "reimbursement policies for 505(b)(2) approved drugs."
Representatives for Horizon Therapeutics, GlaxoSmithKiline, Neurocrine Biosciences, and Eagle Pharmaceuticals did not immediately return FOX Business' request for comment.
Delaney Marsco, an ethics expert at the Campaign Legal Center, told FOX Business that if Biden chose to move ahead with his campaign promise to reduce the cost of prescription drug prices, for example, it would be reasonable to expect that Steve Ricchetti could potentially recuse himself to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.
"You would expect recusal and you would expect even an ethics agreement or you'd expect some sort of, you know, conversation to happen between the official and their relatives that you will not lobby me directly. You will not even attempt to lobby me directly. You won't lobby anybody I work with directly," Marsco said. "It might not technically break the law to have a brother working as a lobbyist in the same field that you might be working on policy in, but we would expect the official to recuse from any matters that his brother has a keen interest in or is lobbying on."
According to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Richetti Inc. made a total of about $365,000 in lobbying income between the first and second quarter of this year alone.
The Biden transition team's ethics rules state that individuals who are registered lobbyists, or have registered as lobbyists within the past year, must get approval from the transition’s general counsel to serve on the team. The Wall Street Journal reported that Biden has named at least 40 current and former registered lobbyists to his transition team.
Both GSK and Horizon have a history of increasing drug prices.
According to a Reuters report from late 2019, GSK was one of several drug companies that was set to increase their prices on more than 30 drugs going into the new year, citing research from 3 Axis Advisors.
The company reportedly increased prices on the respiratory treatments it delivers through its Ellipta inhaler, its cancer drug Zejula and on products in its HIV-focused ViiV joint venture. Price hikes reportedly ranged between 1% and 5%.
In addition, a 2018 report by The Financial Times found that Horizon raised the average wholesale price on one of its painkillers called Vimovo by 9.9% to $2,979 per bottle. Vimovo is still listed under Horizon's portfolio.
|HZNP||HORIZON PHARMA PLC||70.55||+1.65||+2.39%|
It is curently unclear whether Jeff Ricchetti plans to lobby the White House or the Biden adminstration's agencies with his brother lined up for a key role or if Steve Ricchetti will be involved in any major policy matters of the administration.
Both the Ricchetti brothers and a spokesperson for the Biden transition team did not immediately return FOX Business' request for comment.