Laying the Foundations
Our country has had lobbying as long as we have had politics. Even in the 1950s and 1960s, political lobbying was balanced among labor unions and other public-interest groups (Drutman). The key difference between then and now is that then, very few companies arranged for lobbying on their behalf in Washington. Lobbyists believed that their ability to be politically influential and guide votes was greatly inhibited by their lack of clients and contributors (Drutman).
The relationship between the government and corporations has shifted over the years to that of partners. Corporations discovered that they could invest in politics and oversee policies through involvement on The Hill. In turn, since the early 2000s, corporations have spent about $2.6 billion a year on lobbying expenditures among the House and Senate (Drutman).
What industry spends the most on lobbying? Is it the oil and gas lobby with its big name members like Exxon Mobile, Koch Industries and BP (OpenSecrets)? Or perhaps the securities and investment lobby which caters to the interests of hedge funds and private investment firms (OpenSecrets)?
It’s actually neither. The biggest spender is the pharmaceuticals and health product industry, also known as Big Pharma.
A Closer Look at Big Pharma’s Political Investments
From 1998 to 2014, it is estimated that Big Pharma spent a colossal $2.9 billion on lobbying expenses. In 2012 alone, the companies spent a collective $51 million in federal elections, the majority of which was funneled to republicans (Ludwig). Before continuing, it’s important to note that these companies comprise some of the most profitable businesses in the world. The top 15 pharmaceutical companies garnered sales of $527 billion in 2014.
Considering the evidence above, do you think it’s a coincidence that drug prices are left to the impulses of the market place? Or that some cancer medications are 600 times more expensive in the United States than other developed countries (Ludwig)? I would venture that it is not. I would even go as far to say that Big Pharma’s funneling of billions into Washington has allowed them to maneuver votes and regulations in their favor.
The following is a variety of policies that have been pushed and lobbied for by Big Pharma to maintain or increase their profits.
- Big Pharma lobbied for loopholes in the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 (Ludwig). Specifically:
- Prevents Medicare from negotiating drug prices with drug companies
- Medicare “Part D” of the legislation has increased industry profits
- The US government places no caps on drug prices unlike other developed countries
- The US government protects companies from market competition via strict patent and trademark laws
In Post 2, I will elaborate on the regulations above and discuss how items 2 and 3 affects our nation’s public health.
Drutman, Lee. “How Corporate Lobbyist Conquered American Democracy.” The Atlantic, 20 Apr. 2015. Web 10 Dec. 2015.
Ludwig, Mike. “How Much of Big Pharma’s Massive Profits Are Used to Influence Politicians?” Truthout, 30 Sept, 2015. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.
“Pharmaceuticals/Health Products.” Influence and Lobbying. OpenSecrets, 16 Oct. 2015. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.
“Big Pharma.” DrugWatch, n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2015
Staton, Tracy. “The top 15 pharma companies by 2014 revenue.” Financials. Fierce Pharma, 18 Mar. 2015. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.