DRUG COMPANIES: Lobbying Spending Reaches All-Time High
The pharmaceutical industry is spending "record sums" on lobbying and campaign contributions, according to a report released yesterday by the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen. Between 1997 and 1999, drug companies spent $235.7 million lobbying Congress and the executive branch, with spending rising from $74.3 million in 1998 to $83.6 million last year, the Wall Street Journal reports. Hoping to block passage of the Democrats' Medicare prescription drug plan -- which would create a government-run drug benefit for seniors -- the industry hired 297 lobbyists, "one for every two members of Congress," the report says. Campaign contributions from drug companies, also on the rise, now favor Republicans more than ever: The GOP received 73% of all pharmaceutical political donations in the current election year, up from 60% in 1994. Linking the increased drug company spending to Congress' failure to pass "adequate" drug coverage for the elderly, Public Citizen's Congress Watch Director Frank Clemente said, "The drug industry has succeeded in blocking a comprehensive Medicare drug benefit that reins in sky-high drug costs." But Alan Holmer, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said the drug industry "play[s] by the rules and will continue to do so" (Murray, 7/7). The report also notes that many drug industry lobbyists have ties to congressional offices. "By snatching up former members of Congress, key committee staff and former executive branch officials, the drug lobby is able to wield extraordinary influence in the halls of Congress," the report says. It lists PhRMA representatives Ed Kutler and Howard Cohen, who previously served as aides to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the House Commerce Committee, respectively, as examples of these linkages. According to Public Citizen, the industry also has hired Democrats to fight for their proposals, including Thomas Downey, a friend of Vice President Al Gore, and former Arizona Sen. Dennis DeConcini, who also works for drugmaker Pfizer (Heldman, Bloomberg News/Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.