‘Big Pharma’ Spent Record Amounts on Lobbying in 2018, Report Shows
The industry wants to put in a dent in your wallet to line theirs
The pharmaceutical industry, as usual, is doing whatever it can to profit off the suffering of Americans. Recent filings show ‘Big Pharma’ spent a record amount of money on lobbying in 2018. While you and your family are struggling to figure out how to pay for prescriptions, pharmaceutical companies are trying to figure out how to dig an even deeper hole in your wallet to make theirs fatter.
In 2018, the industry’s leading trade group spent a record $27.5 million on lobbying – an increase of $1.4 million from 2009, when Congress and the White House created the Affordable Care Act (ACT), a.k.a., Obamacare. In fact, 2009 was the last time pharma companies spent record amounts on lobbying: just over $25 million.  
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) started pumping out larger sums of cash after lawmakers rejected a legislative fix that would have reduced the group’s share of disbursements in a popular Medicare program. 
Last year, PhRMA shelled out upwards of $6 million to lobby Congress and the Trump administration in the 4th quarter, disclosures filed with the Senate Office of Public Records show. But the first 3 months of 2018 were the costliest for the trade association, as it spent nearly $10 million during that period alone.
When looking at individual companies within the pharmaceutical and health sector, the price tag is even higher. As of October 24, 2018, individual companies spent $194.3 million on lobbying, far above the amount quoted by PhRMA. 
According to Open Secrets, the independent, non-partisan research group that tracks money in U.S. politics, Pfizer, Amgen, and Biotechnology Innovation Organization – a separate lobbying group for pharmaceutical companies and smaller biotechnology companies – spent the most money on lobbying. This was done with the knowledge – and fear – that the White House could limit Big Pharma’s price increases and profits on medicines.
Congress, the White House, and the American public want to see the creation of a comprehensive drug pricing plan. Lawmakers were emboldened to push for such a plan even more after a report published January 22 by the Health Care Cost Institute showed that the cost of insulin nearly doubled in the United States between 2012 and 2016.
Unaffordable insulin could easily make diabetes a public health crisis if it isn’t one already. A report published in 2016 revealed that the number of people living with diabetes has quadrupled since 1980. Obesity, too, is on the rise, and it is one of the leading causes of Type 2 diabetes. In the years between 2007-2008 and 2015-2016, rates of obesity among adults rose from 33.7% to 39.6%. Rates of severe obesity increased during this time from 5.7% to 7.7%. 
According to the recent report, people with Type 1 diabetes spent an average of $5,705 per person on insulin in 2016, an increase of $2,841 per person since 2012. 
The institute wrote:
“The price of all types of insulin and insulin products increased, with point-of-sale prices roughly doubling on average between 2012 and 2016.”
There have been some “positive developments” in drug pricing behavior, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said last week, but “drug companies have a lot further to go.”
That may be an understatement. Between May and the end of 2018, “drug companies took 57% fewer price increases on brand drugs compared with the same period in 2017,” according to Azar. But he praised Amgen, Merck, and Gilead for cutting the list prices on some of their drugs. He also pointed out that, so far, price increases in 2019 have been smaller and fewer than last year. Of course, we are only 1 month into the new year.
Even with these improvements, more needs to be done to make sure Americans can afford the medications they need, said Azar.
“We’ll continue taking action within the scope of the President’s blueprint. But if we need to go beyond its 4 corners to bring down list prices and out-of-pocket costs, we will.”
Julie Fidler has written hundreds of articles on key world topics such as health, drugs, and law. She is also the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. Oh, and she loves to take care of two ridiculously- spoiled cats in her free time.