The Center for Public Integrity, a Washington, DC-based watchdog group, said that big pharmaceutical’s spending on lobbying increased exponentially and in a coincidence with the Democratic control of Congress in 2007.
The group reported that drug companies spent a massive $168 million on drug lobbying last year, which is up a whopping 32% from 2006. Those expensive efforts paid off a number of issues important to drug makers and issues the law firm of Parker Waichman has reported on on numerous occasions. For instance, last year alone, big pharmaceutical:
- Convinced Congress to drop some proposed restrictions on direct-to-consumer advertising,
- Won renewal for two bills that speed up approvals for new drugs and medical devices at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and
- Extended protection against generic competition for some popular, brand name drugs.
The report also notes that the pharmaceutical lobby’s focus includes blocking the importation of inexpensive foreign drugs and protecting drug patents in the U.S. and overseas. Interesting, given that industry has been under constant, recent attack over a lapse in safety measures for its foreign outsourcing of drug manufacturing and for serious health issues related to its imports from foreign countries, such as China.
Also, of note, the pharmaceutical and health-products industry—for the first time—gave a more to Democrats over Republicans, a change from 2006 when Democrats received a mere 31% of that industry’s contributions. Traditionally, Democrats in Congress have been less friendly to drug corporations as have drug makers been to Democrats.
Last year’s big lobbying spenders included some big name drug makers which have been linked to a number of controversies and lawsuits over serious drug reactions, deaths, and false advertising issues:
- Industry group, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, paid $23 million, a 26% increase from the prior year.
- Drug maker Amgen Inc, paid $16.2 million. Amgen—along with Wyeth-is maker of arthritis injection Enbrel, which can attack the skin and lead to psoriasis or attack the joints, causing rheumatoid arthritis. Most notably, Enbrel can cause serious, life-threatening infections, including tuberculosis.
- Drug maker, Pfizer Inc., at $13.8 million. Pfizer makes controversial smoking-cessation drug Chantix and controversial pain reliever, Celebrex. Pfizer is also maker of cholesterol drug, Lipitor, which has been linked to false advertising. And, in another issue, Pfizer agreed today to pay a $975,000 civil penalty over government complaints it violated the Clean Air Act during manufacture of pharmaceuticals at its former plant in Groton.
- Drug maker Roche Holding AG paid $9 million and is the maker of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu, which has been blamed for odd behaviors, delusions and hallucinations, and death in those taking Tamiflu.
- Sanofi-Aventis SA at $8.4 million. Sanofi is the maker of two drugs which were under recent scrutiny: Ambien and Plavix.
- GlaxoSmithKline, PLC at $8.2 million. Glaxo has been at the core a numerous controversies and lawsuits, the most recent over Paxil.
- Johnson & Johnson—maker of Ortho Evra and Procrit, both involved in lawsuits—at $7.7 million