Is it better to spend another couple hundred million on R&D or use it to make sure you have friends in high places? Ask Big Pharma, which spent a record-breaking chunk of change on political lobbying in 2007, dropping $168 million to help the industry gain influence--and it is paying off. This was a 36 percent increase from the previous year and brings the total cash spent on lobbying by drug and device manufacturers to a whopping billion dollars over the last decade.
Top priorities for lobbying included patent rules, accessing drugs in international free trade agreements, blocking pharmaceutical importation, limiting restrictions on direct-to-consumer ads, extending the Prescription Drug User Fee Act and efforts to expand government funding aimed at insuring low-income children. Some notable payoffs included the removal of some proposed restrictions on direct-to-consumer advertising and the passage of two bills aimed at speedier approval processes.
Who were the biggest spenders? According to the Center for Public Integrity, the industry's trade group PhRMA spent $22.7 million, followed by BIO at $7.2 million. The biggest corporate spenders were Amgen ($16.3 million) and Pfizer ($13.8 million). Roche, Sanofi-Aventis, GlaxoSmithKline, J&J spent between $7.7 billion and $9 billion. Novartis, Merck and Bristol-Myers Squib were the $6-million-dollar players, and Abbott Labs rounded out the top 10, with $4.6 million dedicated to lobbying in 2007.
The Center for Responsive Politics also weighed in, saying the industry has given more money to democrats than republicans for the first time ever for the 2008 elections. Traditionally, Republican-dominated Congresses have been more amenable to the industry. The fact that the Democrats regained Congressional control in 2007 might have influenced the staggering amounts dedicated to lobbying.