Pharmacies, doctors and other health professionals are increasingly lobbying for tougher regulation to prevent the spread of new drugs, while giant pharmaceutical companies are lobbying to expand their monopoly powers.
A new report from the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, released on Monday, found that pharmaceutical giants have spent more than $2.3 billion lobbying the US Congress to push forward their controversial agenda, which could include introducing new regulations on new drug approvals and making it easier for health insurance companies to deny coverage to people who fail to pay.
Public Citizen also found that the largest drug companies, including the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, spent nearly $2 billion to lobby Congress on drug safety in the last two years alone, according to the report.
“These companies are making a concerted effort to convince Congress that they have the power to make life easier for patients and doctors while also making it harder for taxpayers,” said Dr. Robert Wood, the lead author of the report and a professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota.
The biggest lobbying groups were Pfizer ($1.8 billion), Bayer ($1 billion), Sanofi ($1 million), Eli Lilly ($1,500) and CVS Caremark ($1million).
The biggest drug companies spent more on lobbying in the first half of this year than any other time since the 1990s.
In the first six months of 2017, Pfizer spent more money lobbying Congress than any of the other companies.
The big pharma groups also spent more during the past year than other companies combined, according the report, which found that between January and May of this season, they spent $1.7 billion lobbying Congress on drugs and treatments.
“This is the largest spending spree by a pharmaceutical company since the mid-1990s,” said Wood.
“Pfizer is a major player in this industry, and it’s just not just a coincidence that this is what the biggest companies in this field are doing.
Big pharmas have a very powerful agenda.”
While the big pharmas may be able to influence lawmakers, the industry has also shown that it can take pressure from outside groups, too.
The report said that the pharmaceutical industry has spent more of its own money than any company on campaigns this election cycle.
This is likely due to a concerted push by the pharmaceutical companies to push their agenda through Congress, the report said.
While most of the money spent by the big companies was in the form of campaign contributions, the pharmaceuticals also spend considerable money on lobbying.
The largest pharmaceutical lobby was Pfizer.
Its campaign spent nearly 1.6 billion dollars during the first three months of this campaign cycle, while other major drug companies including CVS, Eli Lilly, and Sanofi spent nearly 700 million dollars.
The average spending of Pfizer’s lobbying campaign during the last year was $1,800 per person, while the average spending by the other major pharmaceutical companies was $764.
The drug companies’ lobbying campaign in Congress has been even more aggressive than the pharmaceutical lobby, with a record $3.5 billion spent on lobbying from the end of the first quarter of 2017 through the end, according a Center for Responsive Politics review of federal campaign finance filings.
In addition to its lobbying effort, Pfizers political action committee spent nearly 3 million dollars during that period.
The PAC’s campaign was focused on helping candidates win seats in Congress, such as the re-election of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), the PAC’s president and CEO, said in a statement.
The group also spent millions on TV ads to influence Americans on the topic of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
The ads were largely paid for by Pfizer and the pharmaceutical giants.
While it’s not clear whether the Big Pharma groups’ campaign will be successful in winning any legislative victories, the reports findings are not likely to stop them from continuing their campaign against the law.
“The pharmaceutical companies have a lot of influence over Congress and they’re using that influence to push to pass a bad law that’s going to hurt millions of people, and that’s what the public wants,” said Prof. Wood.