Big Pharma Lobbying has Increased

There are plenty of people with ornate pieces of paper from indoctrination centers who see the problem in having a 30% tariff on something such as steel. The logic of the analysis relates how costs for most consumers will probably increase, while the added profits aren’t deserved and will quite possibly go into the negative value of increased steel industry lobbying. When it comes to drug patent monopolies, which frequently are effectively tariffs of hundreds or thousands of percent, the same reasoning of truth has rarely been seen.

Mallinckrodt also spent $610,000 lobbying Congress, triple the amount of 2015’s first quarter. The company, which makes pain-control drugs as well as H. P. Acthar, an injectable gel prescribed for multiple sclerosis and other diseases, has lobbied on issues related to opioids, patents, Medicare and other matters, regulatory filings show.

Mallinckrodt is far from unique. This year, a critical and risky one for drug companies, the industry as a whole is ratcheting up campaign donations and its presence on Capitol Hill, a new database compiled by Kaiser Health News shows.

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Congressional donations from pharmaceutical PACs rose 11 percent in this year’s first quarter, compared with the first three months of 2015 (the comparable point in the previous election cycle), according to a Kaiser Health News analysis. The increase accompanied a spike in pharma lobbying for the period.

Contributions to powerful committee members who handle health policy matters also increased in the face of public anger over the opioid crisis as well as anticipated renewal of legislation that determines the “user fees” companies pay for regulatory drug approval.

A dozen Republican committee heads and ranking Democrats on health-related panels collected $281,600 from pharma-related PACs in the first quarter, up 80 percent from what people in the same positions collected in the first quarter of 2015, the data shows. Such initial donations often set the pace for a two-year election cycle, and suggest whom corporate interests are trying to cultivate in a new Congress, with implied promises of more to come, analysts say.

For pharma companies, “now would be the time to give out the money, ahead of a piece of legislation that may come down the road,” said Kent Cooper, a former Federal Election Commission official who has tracked political money for decades.

“You want to get your name out there and make a connection with these members’ legislative assistants — so you are known to them and you can get in their door,” Mr. Cooper said.

Other drug makers increasing their congressional donations include AbbVie — whose blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis injection, Humira, faces threats from competition — and Alexion Pharmaceuticals. A six-figure price tag for Soliris, Alexion’s treatment for a rare blood disorder, makes it one of the world’s most expensive drugs.

Pfizer, the No. 2 pharma donor in the first quarter after Sanofi, gave $130,900 to congressional campaigns, three times its contribution for the same period two years ago. So far this year, the company has raised the price of dozens of drugs by an average of 20 percent, The Financial Times reported.

PhRMA, a big giver in the past, has not yet joined individual companies in increasing donations for this election cycle. Congressional campaigns collected $7,000 in the first quarter from PhRMA, which Politico reported had raised member dues to prepare for the drug-price fight. They got $31,500 two years ago.

The totals do not include contributions from individual executives and lobbyists, or donations to leadership PACs. Leadership PACs associated with a particular member of Congress often spend money on other members’ campaigns, as well as on things that a campaign committee cannot finance. Details on contributions to leadership PACs take longer to become available.

Outrage was still bubbling last year over moves by Turing Pharmaceuticals and Mylan to raise prices of cheap-to-make, lifesaving drugs to hundreds of dollars a dose, when the country elected a Republican president who vowed: “I’m going to bring down drug prices.” Nearly eight Americans in 10 said in a September poll they believed prescription drug prices were unreasonable.

Evidence has grown that pharma companies helped fuel the nation’s addiction and overdose crisis with sales of powerful painkillers, prompting calls for an overhaul. Drug developers are also preparing for renewal of the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, which generates revenue to pay for government review and approval of drugs.

At the same time, drug companies anticipated Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which finances billions in drug sales. That process has stalled in the Senate. All of this gives drug makers the most powerful incentives in years to cultivate policy makers, analysts say.