April 20, 2018 News

ALERT: PhRMA Spends Record $$$ Lobbying

WASHINGTON, DC — Patients For Affordable Drugs’ Executive Director, Ben Wakana, issued the following statement regarding the news that PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry’s main trade organization, broke a record for money spent lobbying in the first quarter of 2018.

“Drug corporations are running scared. The public knows the truth about America’s rigged prescription drug pricing system, so PhRMA is doing what PhRMA does best, lobbying lawmakers behind closed doors. Patients are demanding lower drug prices, and in response, PhRMA fattened its lobbying budget, revealing the industry’s true priorities.”


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Drug industry’s big trade group breaks its record for lobbying spending in a quarter
STAT News // Rebecca Robbins // April 20, 2018


PhRMA, the drug industry’s big trade group, spent nearly $10 million lobbying the federal government in the first three months of this year — its most on record for a single quarter.

The trade group’s spending has risen annually since 2014 — a sign of just how powerful a player the drug industry has become in Washington. In 1999 and 2000, it spent less each year on lobbying than it did over the past quarter.
PhRMA has been building up a war chest to counter the threat of legislative action on drug pricing. In late 2016, it raised its annual dues by 50 percent, in an effort to raise an additional $100 million annually from the drug makers it represents.

It’s not clear, however, that all that spending in the first quarter of 2018 got the industry as much as it was hoping, at least legislatively speaking. Drug makers suffered a rare defeat in March when Congress declined to reverse or even relax a law that puts drug companies on the hook for a bigger share of Medicare beneficiaries’ prescription costs. Industry lobbyists, including many of outside firms working for PhRMA, had mounted an aggressive campaign this spring to convince lawmakers to ease those rules.


The law — which makes them responsible for 70 percent of the prescription costs for seniors who reach the so-called Medicare “donut hole,” a gap in drug coverage — goes into effect at the start of next year and will likely cost the industry billions.


The trade group was more successful at fending off a proposal from some generics manufacturers, insurers, hospitals and consumer groups to include the so-called CREATES Act, which aims to make it easier for generic drug makers to get samples of the brand drugs they’re trying to duplicate, in one of the spending bills up for consideration this spring.


It also worked behind the scenes with key House leaders to make changes to a so-called “right-to-try” bill that ultimately passed the House. That bill, which aims to create a new way for terminally ill patients to access experimental therapies, has since stalled in the Senate.


Other key PhRMA priorities, like legislation to overhaul the Medicare drug discount program known as 340B and a separate effort to devote more funding toward the opioid epidemic, also dominated the congressional agenda this spring.


PhRMA spent more than $25 million in 2017, just about $700,000 shy of its record for annual federal lobbying spending. That came in 2009, at the height of the debate over the Affordable Care Act in the first year of the Obama administration.


PhRMA, which retains dozens of outside lobbying firms in Washington, just recently added two more, Politico reported. FTI Government Affairs will handle PhRMA’s interests regarding trade policy in Latin America and the S-3 Group will cover PhRMA’s legislative issues broadly.


The latest federal lobbying filing for the drug industry’s other big trade group, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, was not yet publicly available on Friday afternoon.
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