While the American people are hurting on two fronts when it comes to their dealings with the pharmaceutical industry, one being the price of drugs and the other involving safety issues, the drug companies are doing extremely well. The pharmaceutical industry’s spending on lobbying skyrocketed in 2007 according to a report by The Center for Public Integrity, a Washington watchdog group. Drug companies spent $168 million on lobbying last year, up 32% from 2006. That lobbying is not designed to help consumers. Unfortunately for consumers, the industry’s efforts paid off on some important issues. For example consider that:
The biggest lobbying spender last year among pharmaceuticals was the industry’s trade organization, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which paid $23 million, a 26% increase from a year earlier. The followings sets out the companies’ lobbying efforts with the amounts for each company:
Democrats in Congress have been traditionally less friendly to the drug companies. Since Democrats became the majority in the House and Senate the drug industry and its regulators at the FDA have been under much closer scrutiny. Interestingly, this scrutiny was spurred in part by a Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who has found new allies such as Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The Center’s report said the pharmaceutical lobby’s focus includes blocking the importation of inexpensive foreign drugs and protecting drug patents in the U.S. and overseas. I would add to that efforts to keep the FDA weak and ineffective.
The industry’s support for limiting drug imports comes at a time when it’s also coming under attack over safety issues for its foreign outsourcing of drug manufacturing as well as for its own imports from other countries such as China. The recent crisis involving contaminated heparin from China has prompted several congressional inquiries into the ability and determination of U.S. drug firms to ensure the safety of the drugs and drug ingredients they import. The federal government must control the power and influence of the powerful drug industry and the place to start is in Congress. Stronger laws relating to lobbyists and lobbying activities must be passed and then those laws must be enforced.
Source: Wall Street Journal
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