Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and the 31 other major drug makers that belong to the trade group PhRMA together spent more than $120 million lobbying Congress in 2019, according to recently released federal disclosures.
That helped pay for an army of over 450 lobbyists who helped the drug makers and their trade group vehemently oppose the sweeping proposals lawmakers and the Trump administration put forth in their efforts to lower prescription drug prices.
PhRMA also broke its all-time annual lobbying record this year. It spent $28.9 million in 2019, surpassing its previous record of $27.5 million, set last year.
The all-time high sums helped the industry fend off several major scares: Despite widespread, bipartisan consensus that Congress should act to lower drug prices, as well as increasing voter attention on the issue, lawmakers achieved only a handful of very small reforms in 2019. Neither a progressive package from Speaker Nancy Pelosi nor a bipartisan package from Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) came close to the president’s desk, though congressional dysfunction and partisanship likely contributed those wins for pharma, too.
2019 was supposed to be the year Washington lowered drug prices. What happened?No bill was too small to get PhRMA’s attention: The group lobbied on more than 90 drug pricing bills in the last quarter of 2019 alone, according to recently filed disclosures. Even bills like the Flat Prices Act, which has just eight largely unknown co-sponsors, didn’t escape their gaze.
PhRMA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about their advocacy spending.
While the lion’s share of the dollars flowing to drug pricing lobbyists came from drug makers’ deep pockets, a whole host of other industries — everyone from neurologists to big box stores and even universities — bent lawmakers’ ears over the last year on drug pricing.
Among the drug makers, Pfizer spent the most on lobbying in 2019. It ran up a tab of nearly $11 million. Amgen spent nearly the same.
Smaller drug makers got in on the action too: Exelixis, which has three cancer drugs on the market and which is not a PhRMA member company, spent $190,000 last quarter. It lobbied on just three bills: Nancy Pelosi’s signature drug pricing package, the Senate Finance Committee package, and the generic competition bill known as the CREATES Act.
Drug makers were among the biggest spenders of any industry on lobbying this year, according to an analysis of more than a dozen U.S. business sectors conducted by the Center for Responsive Politics. That analysis, which only examined lobbying spending through September, showed that drug makers had spent nearly twice what the next most active sector, technology, had spent.