In Q2, Drug Companies Lobbied to Expand Many Government Healthcare Programs

A look at what drug companies spent on lobbying in the second quarter of 2009 shows an interesting dichotomy: It's a parade of selfishness that, if successful, may end up doing more to expand government-run healthcare in the U.S. than President Obama's reforms.

Thus far, the pharmaceutical industry has tried to ride two horses in the healthcare reform battle. First, it has opposed anything that might weaken its profits, such as allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices or legalizing reimportation of foreign drugs. On the other hand it has favored expanding existing government programs that pay for drugs, and it has pledged $80 billion in "rebates" to the federal government if a package it favors passes.

In other words, drug companies want increases in prescription drug spending by the federal government. Pfizer, for instance, lobbied on coverage for programs to help people quit smoking (the company sells Chantix); Johnson & Johnson lobbied to expand the National Health Service Corps.

Almost all the companies listed below lobbied on the usual issues: healthcare reform, biologics, and patent protection. What follows is a summary of the more unique issues each company focused on, along with the total they spent in the quarter. Fierce Pharma puts the total spent at around $28.8 million.

  • PhRMA, $6.2 million The group ... lobbied on rules governing how companies promote prescription drugs to university instructors and researchers, and on a proposal for a pilot program to provide expertise in patent cases to local district justices.
  • Pfizer, $5.6 million Pfizer ... lobbied on coverage for programs to help people quit smoking. ... the Food and Drug Administration required Chantix to come with the agency's strongest warning that some users have experienced suicidal thoughts and depression. Pfizer also must do a new study to determine the extent of such side effects.
  • Eli Lilly, $3.6 million Lilly ... lobbied about tax deferrals and antibiotic legislation for animals.
  • Amgen, $2.9 million Amgen was ... putting money toward preventing FDA from approving generic versions of biotech drugs and lobbying on efforts to reform the U.S. patent system. Implementation of the Medicare drug benefit for seniors was also a priority.
  • J&J, $1.6 million ... the company lobbied to extend the Children's Health Insurance Program to more children and to expand certain public health programs, such as the National Health Service Corps. J&J, which makes the HIV medicine Prezista, lobbied on two bills involving Medicaid coverage for poor people infected with the virus that causes AIDS.
  • Merck, $1.5 million Although there were no specific bills in play, it lobbied against increasing the rebates drug companies pay government under the Medicaid drug program and against changing Medicare rules to impose government price controls on prescription drugs ... Merck also lobbied on legislation to require drug and medical device manufacturers to report payments made to doctors for consulting and other services, an increasingly hot issue as industry critics accuse the companies of having too much influence over the medical profession. Merck ... also lobbied on deferring taxation of income earned abroad.
  • AstraZeneca, $1.3 million AstraZeneca had interests in the Medicare prescription drug benefit for seniors, but also lobbied Congress on intellectual property and trade issues, on importation of cheaper prescription drugs from foreign countries and on increased funding for FDA.
  • Wyeth, $901,191 Wyeth lobbied on several aspects of health care reform, including coverage affordability, out-of-pocket costs for people with chronic health problems, rebates and prices for drugs bought under government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, public disclosure of consulting and speaking fees industry pays to doctors ... The maker of Centrum vitamins also lobbied on dietary supplement issues.
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb, $809,000 The company lobbied for increased awareness and government funding to help pay for medicines in several areas where it sells products, including early treatment for people with AIDS. Bristol-Myers sells Atripla and Sustiva for HIV infection. ... also lobbied against the government negotiating discounts for drugs sold to seniors through the Medicare program, ... the maker of Enfamil infant formula, lobbied to support a popular nutrition subsidy program for new mothers and their infants,
  • Abbott Labs, $700,000 Abbott ... lobbied against a bill aimed at updating the U.S. patent system. The pharmaceutical industry has argued that a new patent system must not weaken protections on drugs by reducing infringement penalties. The reform effort has stalled in Congress.
  • Schering-Plough, $550,000 The company ... lobbied on bills regarding agreements between brand-name and generic drug firms to delay such competition, and on proposals regarding the tax rates of income U.S. corporations earn overseas. Like most large American pharmaceutical companies, roughly half of Schering-Plough's sales come from other countries.
Previous coverage of drug company lobbying: