As the pharmaceutical industry faces potential pricing reform and continued criticism from patient advocates and members of Congress, the industry's top trade group spent $15.5 million lobbying in the first half, an 11.5% increase compared with the same period last year.
PhRMA lobbied both chambers of Congress, plus federal agencies including the HHS, FDA, CMS and more, according to the documents. It worked on issues relating to patents, inter partes reviews, opioids, drug pricing, generics and much more, spending $1.6 million more than the same period last year, according to filings. In all, it spent $15.5 million in the first six months of 2018.
A PhRMA spokesperson said she could not discuss lobbying strategy but that issues being discussed have significant implications for patients. "We think it is vital to be engaged and a big part of what we are focused on is coming to the table with solutions to address improve patient affordability and access."
Engaged it is. Last year in the first half, PhRMA spent $13.9 million in lobbying expenses. By the time 2017 was over, the group had boosted its spend by 30% over 2016 levels to a total of more than $25 million.
The spending comes as the industry faces close scrutiny from President Donald Trump and a range of critics over its pricing strategies. Early last year, then-president elect Trump said the industry was "getting away with murder." He also blasted the industry's lobbying power.
Then, early this month, the president took Pfizer to task over its second round of price hikes for the year. The drug giant ended up reversing those hikes in a move that sparked a new round of intense discussion over pricing. Pfizer have since pledged to pause price hikes for the year, pledges that critics say will provide little relief for consumers or little pain for drugmakers.
In May, the Trump administration unveiled its drug pricing blueprint, a development many industry watchers actually saw as a positive for pharma companies. The plan seeks to boost competition and price negotiations, plus take on industry tactics that have reduced competition. Wells Fargo analyst David Maris wrote after the announcement that the administration is "actually trying to address some of the root causes of price inflation and lack of affordability."
But one consultant told FiercePharma afterward it looked like "business as usual" for industry players in the short term.