Drug Companies Lobby for More Protection from Competition
Pharmaceutical Industry Looking for 12 Years of Monopoly Protection
When the House Energy and Commerce Committee resumes consideration of health care reform legislation, it is expected to consider an amendment by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) that would give pharmaceutical companies 12 years of monopoly protection to market brand-name biologic drugs before cheaper alternatives could enter the market. Biologic drugs are drugs made using living organisms and are estimated to account for more than a quarter of all drug spending in 2010.
Among the most vocal supporters of this proposal are the pharmaceutical industry’s leading trade associations, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and the major pharmaceutical companies that stand to lose financially if generic biologic drugs are available sooner to the public.
Since 2007, PhRMA, the Biotechnology Industry Organization and major pharmaceutical companies spent nearly $240 million lobbying Congress, with about $30 million of that spent in the first three months of 2009 alone, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. That is roughly $333,000 per day lobbying Congress during the first three months of this year. Their virtual army of lobbyists numbers about 773, more than one lobbyist per member of Congress. These same companies have donated about $1.27 million in campaign contributions just to 59 members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in that same three-year time period.
“The drug industry is one of the most profitable in the world thanks to the market protections they have secured from the government,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “We cannot let these powerful companies control the debate in Washington with their army of lobbyists and campaign war chests as our health care costs continue to climb higher and higher.”
Pharmaceutical Lobbying (in USD) and Number of Lobbyists
# of Lobbyists
Biotechnology Industry Organization
Source: Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org)
The Federal Trade Commission last month released a study titled, “Emerging Health Care Issues: Follow-on Biologic Drug Competition,” concluding that the 12- to 14-year exclusivity period sought by brand name drug companies for biologic drugs is not necessary to promote innovation. In fact, the report states: “The potential harm posed by such a period is that firms will direct scarce R&D dollars toward developing low-risk clinical and safety data for drug products with proven methods of action rather than toward new inventions to address unmet medical needs.”
Despite this, the drug companies have so far been able to maintain a system that holds generic biologic drugs at bay for years, even though one in eight prescriptions filled in 2007 was for a biologic drug, costing patients up to $100,000 a year in some cases. In fact, the pharmaceutical industry has fared better than any other industry group during the health care reform effort, holding off the most significant reforms, such as creation of a single payer system that would allow the federal government to negotiate prices for drugs or the re-importation of cheaper drugs from Canada. Both would cut costs tremendously for the public.
“It is going to be impossible for Congress to get a handle on our health care crisis unless it can stand up to the big drug companies to control costs,” said Edgar.
Click here to view charts that show contributions to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee from major pharmaceutical companies and two major industry trade groups, from the previous and current election. A second chart shows cumulative contributions from these same pharmaceutical interests to the members of the committee.
In addition, click here to read “Legislating under the Influence,” a Common Cause report released last month on health care industry spending on lobbying and campaign contributions around the health care reform debate.
Common Cause continues to work to pass the Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 1826 / S.752) as the comprehensive solution to the pay-to-play culture in Washington, DC, which would create a citizen-funded election system for Congress in which candidates could run for office on a blend of small donations and public funds.