WASHINGTON – The pharmaceutical industry's run of success on Capitol Hill (search) has benefited from the more than $800 million spent since 1998 on lobbyists and political campaigns, a political watchdog group said Wednesday.
The trade group representing drug makers said the money helped patients.
In the past year, the industry hired nearly 1,300 lobbyists, including dozens of former lawmakers and hundreds of people who worked for congressional committees or regulatory agencies.
"It is astonishing to learn that no other interest has spent more money to sway public policy in this time period," said Roberta Baskin (search), the executive director of the Center for Public Integrity (search). The nonpartisan research group investigated the pharmaceutical industry's spending.
Baskin described the industry's motives for its spending as profit-driven.
Ken Johnson, senior vice president for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said the report was "clearly biased and one-sided."
He said it failed to acknowledge that "medicines researched and developed by America's biopharmaceutical research companies save lives and improve the quality of life for tens of millions of patients from around the world."
The center noted that the industry spent about $116 million on lobbying and political campaigns in 2003, which was the year Congress approved a new prescription drug benefit under Medicare.
In the same legislation, drug makers fought back attempts by Democrats that would have allowed the government to negotiate drug prices on behalf of beneficiaries.
Last year, according to the center, the industry spent $128 million on such efforts, including seeking tax breaks as part of a massive corporate tax relief bill.
Drug companies lobbied for $5.6 billion in spending for biodefense and for a bill that allows easier access to patents for inventions researched jointly by public institutions and private entrepreneurs.
Much of the data for the center's report comes from lobbying disclosure forms filed with the Senate. More than 3,000 people over the past seven years have done lobbying work for a pharmaceutical company.
The list includes former senators Bob Dole and Lloyd Bentsen and former representatives Robert Livingston and Tom Foley, the center said.
Overall, 75 former lawmakers are listed as serving as lobbyists for a drug company since 1998. The industry's trade group hired former Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., as its president in December.
The industry is not happy with legislation that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said he will introduce that calls for a two-year ban on consumer advertising for new drugs. Nor are drug companies pleased by a proposal from the administration and governors that would reduce how much Medicaid pays for prescription drugs.