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Biggest Drug Companies Expand Lobbying Army in 2001

June 13, 2002

Biggest Drug Companies Expand Lobbying Army in 2001

New Report Shows Size, Strength, Connections of Drug Lobby as House Takes Up Medicare Rx Drug Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? In 2001, the drug industry?s army of lobbyists easily outnumbered all 535 members of Congress as pharmaceutical companies employed 623 different hired guns, according to a new Public Citizen report based on newly available data. These same drug lobbyists are expected to swarm Capitol Hill next week as the House Energy and Commerce and the House Ways and Means committees begin to mark up Medicare prescription drug legislation.

Public Citizen?s report, The Other Drug War II: Drug Companies Use an Army of 623 Lobbyists to Keep Profits Up, found that the biggest drug companies and their trade associations spent 16 percent more on lobbying in 2001 than the previous year. This lobbying increase occurred even as lobbying by all industries appeared to decline in 2001.

The drug industry?s arm-twisting paid off. Although the industry faced mounting pressure in 2001 from employers, senior citizens and politicians to make prescription drugs more affordable, drug companies lost no battles last year. Instead, they gained ground ? and additional profits ? thanks to legislation that extends by six months lucrative monopoly patent protections for drugs if manufacturers test them for safety in children.

That particular lobbying effort in 2001 provides a case study of the way the industry works on Capitol Hill. The biggest drug companies employed well-connected lobbyists, who played hardball with members of Congress. Then they built support for their position by funding a so-called “grassroots” coalition, run by a former drug company lobbyist, that claimed to represent sick children.

“Once again the drug industry demonstrated its slick, cynical and enormous lobbying prowess,” said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen?s Congress Watch. “This study explains why Congress is so far behind the American public when it comes to demanding more affordable medicine from the country?s most profitable industry.”

The full breadth of the drug industry?s Washington, D.C., lobbying operation recently became public with the availability of almost all lobby disclosure reports for 2001. Using these reports, along with information about the lobbyists? “revolving door” connections, Public Citizen produced its third annual report on pharmaceutical industry lobbying. Findings include:

  • The 10 most active drug companies and industry groups boosted lobbying expenditures from $43 million in 2000 to $49.8 million in 2001 and increased the number of lobbyists they employed by 30 percent, from 417 to 540.
  • Overall, drug companies spent $78.1 million on lobbying in 2001, bringing the total lobbying bill for 1997-2001 to $403 million. The companies employed 623 different lobbyists in 2001.
  • Twenty-three of those lobbyists are former members of Congress; 340 (54 percent) have “revolving door” connections, which means they previously worked in Congress or another branch of the federal government; and 32 are former staffers of the House Ways and Means or Energy and Commerce committees, which will consider Medicare prescription drug legislation next week.
  • The biggest increase in lobbying activity was by the drug industry?s trade association, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which increased spending from $7.5 million in 2000 to $11.3 million last year (a 51 percent hike). PhRMA spent more on lobbying than any other drug industry organization in 2001.
  • Four companies and PhRMA employed more than 50 different lobbyists each in 2001. Pfizer and PhRMA employed the most (each hired 82 lobbyists), followed by Bristol-Myers Squibb (76 lobbyists). Eli Lilly and Amgen each fielded 58 lobbyists.
  • In 2001, brand-name companies easily outgunned the generic companies they often compete with when it came to lobbying. Brand-name companies accounted for 97 percent of all pharmaceutical lobbying spending ($75.7 million out of a $78.1 million total). Brand-name companies also employed nine lobbyists for every one employed by generic companies.

“The 10 biggest drug companies saw their profits increase 33 percent in 2001, climbing from $28 billion in 2000 to $37.2 billion last year,” said Clemente. “With those kinds of profits there?s no telling how much larger this army will become in 2002 when a more aggressive battle is waged over a Medicare drug benefit.”

Click here to view a copy of Public Citizen?s report.