ARA makes Pfizer's 'obscene' drug prices target of its premierprotest

WASHINGTON: If pharmaceutical giant Pfizer did not know of the

Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA), it does now. On the very day the

group unveiled itself to the public last week, it held a demonstration

outside the corporation's New York offices to protest the high cost of

pharmaceuticals.



ARA, which bills itself as the "largest retiree-only advocacy

organization" in the United States, promises to be a "new voice for

retired workers."



That goal came through clearly at the Pfizer protest, which ARA

estimates was attended by more than 1,000 people.



Speakers included AFL-CIO president John Sweeney and ARA EVP Jeff

Wilkinson, who is also executive director of a Massachusetts senior

organization.



Seniors were also recruited to testify to the high cost of drugs. The

story appeared in The New York Times.



"There is no better target," Wilkinson said of Pfizer, arguing that its

"obscene" prices for drugs demonstrate the need for better drug coverage

for seniors. Pfizer made an estimated dollars 3.7 billion in profits

last year according to Fortune magazine.



No one at Pfizer would comment on the accusation as PRWeek went to

press.



ARA plans to hold rallies in other cities, and its members will visit

their federal legislators when Congress is in recess next week.



Abernathy Anderson in Washington, DC has been retained as the PR agency

for this project.



ARA claims to have 2.5 million members, which makes it extremely

powerful for a new organization. Any retiree of a union affiliated with

the AFL-CIO is automatically made a member of ARA, and the group also

plans to solicit retirees who are non-union.



Other ARA members include former members of the now-defunct National

Council of Senior Citizens (NCSC), which saw its ranks decline and its

reputation suffer after it was revealed the group had been involved in

the laundering of Teamster funds to re-elect Ron Carey as union

president.



When the NCSC was ultimately disbanded, the AFL-CIO pushed for the

creation of a new group to take its place.



ARA backs adding a universal prescription-drug benefit to Medicare,

opposes the Bush administration's tax plan and opposes privatizing the

Social Security system.



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