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Pharma Spends 40 Million On Lobbying

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Pharma and Lobbying on Health Care

40 Million Spent in Three Months for Drug Lobbying

Anyone wondering why medication costs are so high might be interested in knowing that drug companies spent forty million dollars in the last three months lobbying Congress about health care. The analysis comes from NPR's Dollar Politics team, Andrea Seabrook and Peter Overby. Meanwhile, our President is trying to tighten the reins on healthcare spending.

Money spent by pharmaceutical companies to lobby in the last three months exceeds money spent lobbying on Capitol Hill on other healthcare issues, says the NPR team.

According to the report, forty million bought a lot of lobbyists. Keeping cheaper drugs from reaching patients in the US from Canada, and drug price control are key issues among pharmacy companies.

More than 300 lobbyists represent the pharmaceutical industry in Washington. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America trade group spent $6.15 million lobbying Congress from April to June this year. The group represents 32 brand name drug manufacturers.

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Pharmaceutical companies are worried about healthcare reform, and it looks like they are willing to spend big to protect their interests. Pfizer spent $5.5 million. Amgen, Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline spent about $3 million each.

Money spent for drug lobbying bought some resolution. Government regulation of drug pricing is already off the table, as is importation of drugs from Canada.

Jerry Avorn, a professor at Harvard Medical School says the drug companies are supportive about healthcare reform because they are getting what they want. He is not surprised that forty million has already been spent. "It's not surprising to learn this, because the pharmaceutical industry for years has been one of the most effective and powerful lobbying outfits in Washington, and it explains why we have a lot of drug policies in the U.S. that don't look like drug policies in any other industrialized country," says Avorn.

In 2003, drug lobbying was also intense. Avorn wrote about it in his book Powerful Medicines. In 2003, Congress wrote prescription drug coverage through Medicare into law. Medicare is permitted to negotiate health care prices with physicians, hospitals and labs – but not with drug companies.

It looks like big money spent lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry is in someone’s interest. The drug industry says they want healthcare reform too. They claim to care about patients.

According to PhRMA's CEO, and former Louisiana congressman Billy Tauzin, "We're working with groups we never worked with before — Families USA, the American Agenda, labor, health care providers — that never stood together on the same platform," says Tauzin. "We have every business reason to want to see this happen, and we have every moral reason to see this happen, because our patients are our first concern." For drug companies, forty million spent in the past three months to engulf Capitol Hill with lobbyists is obviously believed to be money well spent.