The pharmaceutical industry is on track to shatter its own lobbying record amid a massive effort to sink or defang the Democrats’ proposal to lower drug prices, The Washington Post reports.
Democrats in 2018 touted a proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug costs as a top priority and included the proposal in President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan.
Medicare is the only federal agency barred from negotiating bulk prices and the Democrats’ proposal was projected by the Congressional Budget Office to save taxpayers over $450 billion over the next decade.
Democrats aimed to use those funds to help pay for other priorities in the bill, including an expansion of Medicaid and adding dental, vision, and hearing coverage to Medicare.
But the legislation was blocked by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and a group of industry-aligned House Democrats, who are now pushing to massively limit which drugs the agency could negotiate.
The pushback on the legislation, which is regularly supported by more than 80% of the public in opinion polls, comes amid a lobbying blitz by the pharmaceutical industry.
PhRMA, the industry’s top lobbying arm, has already spent $23 million on lobbying in the first nine months, putting them on track to beat its own spending record of $29 million in 2019. The group has also spent at least $26.5 million on ads attacking the proposal. The industry has spent more than $100 million on lobbying in total and millions more on ads.
The industry also made over $90 million in political contributions in the last election cycle, with over 60% going to Democrats.
“They’re the Goliath,” Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of OpenSecrets, said of the pharmaceutical industry. Aside from the Chamber of Commerce, which represents a wide variety of business interests, the pharmaceutical industry has deployed more lobbyists than any other, sending more than 1,600 lobbyists to DC, outnumbering members of Congress 3 to 1.
In 2012, lobbyists registered to work on drug pricing issues 69 times for 20 different clients.
This year, they have registered to work on the issue 1,192 times for 242 different clients.