In the wake of Sunday’s 60 Minutes expose on the pharmaceutical lobby, the LA Times reports that Big Pharma spent $155 million on lobbying from January 2005 to June 2006. Here’s excerpt from the story:
Researchers at the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity said that the drug industry spent nearly $111 million on lobbying in 2005, a record for the sector in any one year. The record pace appeared to be sustained in the first half of 2006, the report said…
Lobbying is only one facet of the industry’s influence. Drug company sources also accounted for more than $19 million in political contributions to candidates in last year’s congressional election, mainly Republicans. And user fees paid by drug makers make up more than half the budget of the Food and Drug Administration centers that evaluate new drugs.
The industry’s budget enabled drug makers to field about 1,100 agents to lobby congressional committees and administration offices in each of the last two years, the study said.
One of the key reasons Big Pharma has been buying up members of Congress is to block the importation of drugs from Canada:
The drug industry was successful in achieving some of its major goals, such as upholding a government ban on the reimportation of prescription drugs, according to the study. Asif Ismail, director of the center’s project to monitor the drug industry, said, “Essentially what they did is they blocked any legislation.” He added, “There have been several attempts to revisit this issue, and importation is still illegal.”
Big Pharma flacks, as you would expect, are tripping over themselves to mischaracterize the findings:
Pharmaceutical industry officials said the report distorted the industry’s role in Washington, which they say is primarily educational and scientific. They said industry spending was designed to ensure that new drugs for intractable illnesses get government approval to be marketed.
“The Center for Public Integrity’s report, not surprisingly, misses the mark when it comes to efforts by America’s pharmaceutical research companies to educate policymakers,” said Ken Johnson, senior vice president at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. “Our priority has always been to help advance patient health and … we have supported policies and programs that bolster patient access to safe and effective medicines.”
How can Johnson spew this stuff with a straight face?
Some optimistic types expect the Democratic Congress to do battle with Washington’s army of pharmaceutical lobbyists. Unfortunately, I’m afraid this is wishful thinking. In both red states and blue states, politicians mostly respond to green.