Novartis, Pfizer and Amgen top pharma's lobby spending in eventful Q1

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New data on pharmaceutical lobbying show which groups and companies have boosted their spending so far this year.

Even as Washington politicians are busy on a range of proposals that might impact the drug industry, new data show that pharmaceutical lobbying groups and drugmakers including Pfizer, Amgen and Mylan have been busy as well, boosting their spending in hopes of influencing the way legislation gets written.

Compared to 2016’s first quarter, the industry’s top lobby group, PhRMA, increased lobby spending by 34% to $7.98 million in the first three months of this year, according to info from media group Axios. But that paled on a first-quarter percent basis compared to Mylan and Teva, which topped all other pharma players with Q1 increases of 138% and 115%, respectively.

Novartis, Pfizer, Amgen, Teva and AbbVie ranked one through five for drugmakers spending the most on lobbying in the first quarter, collectively spending $15.9 millon. At the top, Novartis spent $4 million, a 29% jump over last year.

But a few companies have actually cut back on the lobbying as the new Trump administration and Congress hash out their priorities on drug costs and taxes. Notably, Merck & Co. chopped its lobby spending nearly in half to $1.72 million in the first quarter. AbbVie cut lobbying expenses by 6%.

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The expanded lobbying efforts come as Congress and the White House mull over a range of proposals to limit drug spending amid a wave of public anger over drug prices. The plans include personal medicine importation from Canada and Medicare price negotiations, both resisted by pharma.

Last year, sensing an impending fight after the election, PhRMA increased its dues by 50% to bring its total revenue to $300 million, according to a Politico report. The organization spent nearly $8 million lobbying in the first quarter, the new data show.

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The group’s efforts run parallel to those of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, which spent $2.3 million in the first quarter. Last year, that group’s CEO, Jim Greenwood, told an audience the industry is tired of being a “scapegoat for the real and growing problem of patient access.”

Since Greenwood uttered those comments, a public debate has erupted between pharmacy benefit managers and drugmakers about which side is to blame for high costs. Drugmakers argue growing rebates expected by payers are playing a role in high costs, while PBMs contend the pharma companies set their own prices, often too high.