Big Pharma Lobbying Money Influencing American Healthcare Reform

Money Makes The Healthcare Reform Bill Turn Around

Last month, Jim Edwards of BNET PHARMA revealed how much cash is involved to influence the outcome of the Obama Healthcare Reform bill. Big Pharma Lobbying Bucks are raining down on Washington. Congressional representatives and members of the Obama administration have to at least consider the Industries requests…after all, Big Pharma, at $1.6 billion since 1998, represents the number ONE all-time spender on lobbying.

If, and when, any of our elected representatives, actually reads the Health Reform Bill being pushed through by Madam Speaker, Pelosi, they’ll probably find Big Pharma wish list items like:

  • Pharmaceutical and health product companies, like the insurance industry, strongly oppose any proposal to create a public health insurance option, fearful that private insurers would be marginalized and government price controls would limit what the industry can charge for its products.
  • Medicaid, which provides insurance to poor families, expanded to cover more low-income workers. This would mean more people could afford drugs and medical devices, increasing the industry’s target market.
  • Big Pharma supports the mandate that all Americans purchase health insurance, boosting the industry’s customer base by millions.

If and when, The Obama Administration keeps its promise to post the Health Care Reform Bill on the Internet for public review, be an example to the Congress read it; discuss it; make suggestion to your representative. Who knows maybe your rep is one that care more about representing view of the folks that voted for him, the Big Pharma lobbyists that donate big bucks to his favorite charity, or offered his wife a job.

As President Obama waits for Congress to deliver a heathcare reform bill, pharmaceutical companies are spending millions on lobbyists to thwart any measure that might make drug prices cheaper or even allow the government to negotiate them, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.  Companies spent 41 percent more this year on lobbying than last, USA Today reported.

A look at company lobbying reports by the Associated Press shows companies aligned in lockstep against price controls, allowing Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate prices, or drug reimportation.

And companies have laden Congress members with campaign donations, funds to their non-profits, and paid seats on their boards. Taken together, it looks like Congress is bought and paid for. Thus millions of Americans may be entertaining a false hope that Washington will deliver a plan that will lift U.S. healthcare out of its Third World status and into something approaching modernity, like Europe or Canada. An example, from The Boston Globe:

The wife of Senator Chris Dodd, who is in charge of writing the Senate’s bill, sits on the boards of four healthcare companies.

Many other lawmakers own thousands in stock or recieve more in compensation to sit on pharma company boards. The Washington Post has a comprehensive list of money ties between congressmen and drug companies:

Almost 30 key lawmakers helping draft landmark health-care legislation have financial holdings in the industry, totaling nearly $11 million worth of personal investments in a sector that could be dramatically reshaped by this summer’s debate.

And a USA Today report details how drug companies keep politicians’ pet charities funded:

Health care groups, for instance, give millions to the planned Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston. Pharmaceutical giant Amgen wrote the biggest check — $5 million in December — to the institute, which will honor Kennedy’s more than four decades in Congress and promote the study of the U.S. Senate.

Here, compiled by the AP, are individual company details about the lobbying activities in Q1 2009:

  • PhRMA – $7 million
    PhRMA is again trying to ensure drug companies won’t face steep cuts in prescription prices and, instead of reducing drug margins, have proposed cost reductions to hospitals and insurers.
  • Pfizer – $6.1 million
    Pfizer … more than doubled its lobbying spending from the year-ago period. The company also spent nearly $3.3 million lobbying in the fourth quarter of 2008.
    New York-based Pfizer lobbied on legislation on health reform initiatives, electronic prescriptions, veterans issues, allowing generic versions of expensive biologic drugs and a proposal requiring research comparing the effectiveness of different medical treatments.
    It also lobbied on U.S. patent reform and on international patent, trade and regulatory issues involving more than 20 countries; national health insurance; legislation to require drug makers to disclose payments to physicians; reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program; and environmental issues related to pharmaceutical manufacturing.
  • Eli Lilly – $3.4 million
    Domestically, the drugmaker lobbied on Medicaid rebates and advertising transparency.
  • Amgen – $2.8 million
    Amgen Inc., the world’s largest biotechnology company, spent nearly $2.8 million lobbying in the first quarter as Congress debates a potential system for bringing less expensive copies of pricey biotech drugs to the market.
  • Merck – $1.5 million
    Merck lobbied Congress and the White House on health care reform issues including increasing coverage for uninsured people, requiring research comparing the effectiveness of different medical treatments and keeping a private-sector health care system.
    … and increasing funding for the national immunization program for low-income children.
    Merck lobbied against imposing government price controls on prescription drugs bought under the Medicare program and against expanding rebates paid to the government for medications bought under the Medicaid program. But it lobbied for ensuring access to vaccines under Medicare; it sells the Zostavax vaccine against shingles, a painful, blistering rash that generally strikes senior citizens.
  • Johnson & Johnson – $1.5 million
    It lobbied on multiple bills involving the Medicare prescription drug program that would either limit discounts given to the government or lower the prices it pays.
    J&J which offers employee wellness programs, lobbied in support of a tax credit to employers who do so, and on a bill that would require drug and medical device makers to report many payments to physicians.
  • Wyeth – $876,000
    Madison, N.J.-based Wyeth  ( WYE –  news  –  people ) lobbied on several aspects of health care reform, including bills that could limit the prices the government pays for medications, as well as public disclosure of drugmaker payments to doctors. It lobbied on drug advertising rules and legislation to modernize the Food and Drug Administration.
    The maker of Centrum vitamins also lobbied on dietary supplement issues.
  • Schering-Plough – $600,000
    Schering-Plough lobbied on health reform issues including access to coverage, price rebates for drugs bought under the Medicaid program and proposals to require research comparing effectiveness of different medical treatments.
    The maker of allergy treatments Nasonex and Claritin, and the HomeAgain Pet Recovery System also lobbied on reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, legislation affecting Food and Drug Administration operations, and against importation of cheaper prescription drugs from foreign countries, which domestic drugmakers have opposed for years.
  • Amylin – $350,000
    San Diego-based Amylin lobbied on legislation that would allow the Food and Drug Administration to approve copies of biotech drugs, reimbursement issues, drug safety and physician payment disclosures.
  • Biogen – $290,000
    The Cambridge, Mass.-based company lobbied on legislation that would set up a process for the Food and Drug Administration to approve biosimilars, or copies of biotech drugs.

Jim Edwards, a former managing editor of Adweek, has covered drug marketing at Brandweek for four years, and is a former Knight-Bagehot fellow at Columbia University’s business and journalism schools.
Email Jim Edwards or follow him on Twitter.

BNET Pharma provides daily industry news coverage and insights for managers and executives about the major manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and medicine. In addition to detailed company profiles, we bring you critical analysis on new alliances and partnerships, new patents and products, mergers and acquisitions, cost management, investments and deal flow, and a host of other important business issues.

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Author: H. Sandra Chevalier-Batik

I started the Inconvenient Woman Blog in 2007, and am the product of a long line of inconvenient women. The matriarchal line is French-Canadian, Roman Catholic, with a very feisty Irish great-grandmother thrown in for sheer bloody mindedness. I am a research analyst and author who has made her living studying technical data, and developing articles, training materials, books and web content. Tracking through statistical data, and oblique cross-references to find the relevant connections that identifies a problem, or explains a path of action, is my passion. I love clearly delineating the magic questions of knowledge: Who, What, Why, When, Where and for How Much, Paid to Whom. My life lessons: listen carefully, question with boldness, and personally verify the answers. I look at America through the appreciative eyes of an immigrant, and an amateur historian; the popular and political culture is a ceaseless fascination. I have no impressive initials after my name. I’m merely an observer and a chronicler, an inconvenient woman who asks questions, and sometimes encourages others to look at things differently.