Fat Cats in front of the Capitol

From the Department of Unsurprising News comes a report that PhRMA, the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers Association, the brand-name drug industry’s lobbying arm, spent $22 Million lobbying Congress in 2007. This is a 25% increase from 2006. (Note: This is NOT the total amount that drug companies and their affiliated organizations spent on lobbying — it’s just the amount that PhRMA spent. If you include individual drug companies, the total would be much higher.)

That the pharmaceutical industry has become one of the largest corporate lobbies in the U.S. is not a new piece of news. The Center for Public Integrity reported in “Pushing Prescriptions” in April 2007 that:

  • “Manufacturers of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and other health products spent nearly $182 million on federal lobbying from January 2005 through June 2006”
  • “Of that total, drug companies and their trade groups spent most of it, or $155 million”
  • “Drug interests employed about 1,100 lobbyists to do their bidding in each of the past two years [2005 & 2006].
  • PhRMA “spent more than $18 million on lobbying last year, more than any single drug company and the most the group spent in one year since 1998, the earliest year of this analysis. In all, PhRMA has spent $104 million since 1998.
  • PhRMA “has an annual budget of more than $200 million.”
  • Drug companies and their trade groups spent $733 million on lobbying from 1998 to mid 2006.

Pharmaceutical companies are also big contributors to Presidential, Congressional and Senate election campaigns. According to opensecrets.org, individuals who work for drug companies and drug industry PACs gave $11,084,395 to federal candidates in the 2006 election cycle.

What did the pharmaceutical industry get for its $22M investment in 2007? Says the AP article:

Proposals aimed at lowering drug prices and restricting industry advertising fell by the wayside in Congress…

The industry trade group advocated against:

  • a proposal by House Democrats that would have allowed the government _ not private health insurers _ to negotiate drug prices for seniors in Medicare. The measure, aimed at wringing lower prices from drug makers, stalled in the House after President Bush threatened to veto it.
  • legislation that would allow the U.S. to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and other foreign countries, citing safety concerns. Import proponents said foreign competition would help drive down U.S. drug prices. The issue failed to gain traction in Congress, despite several high-profile hearings.
  • patent-reform legislation that it argued could weaken legal protections on drug patents. High-tech companies supported the bill that passed the House last year aimed at improving the U.S. patent system, but PhRMA argued it could weaken patent protections by reducing infringement penalties. The bill is still pending in the Senate.
  • a bill overhauling the Food and Drug Administration’s drug-safety system. The legislation, which became law last September, gave FDA new powers to update drug safety labeling and monitor side effects after drugs are approved. But the final bill did not include restrictions on direct-to-consumer advertising opposed by the drug industry.

Not a bad return on investment. The passage of any of the measures that PhRMA’s cash helped defeat could have cost the industry billions, so a mere $22 Million seems like money well spent. Unless, of course, you’re a patient, a consumer, a taxpayer, a doctor — in short, anyone other than a drug company executive or stockholder.

To read the full AP story, go here.