Drug companies spend millions on lobbying as Congress tries to rein in high drug prices

Drug companies spend millions on lobbying as Congress tries to rein in high drug prices
© Getty Images

Prescription drug companies and trade groups shelled out millions of dollars to lobby Congress as it considered legislation aimed at reining in skyrocketing drug prices, according to new lobbying disclosure reports. 

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) — the trade group representing branded drug companies — spent $6.2 million on lobbying in the third quarter of 2019, which ran from July through the end of September.

That's $240,000 more than it spent during the same time frame last year.

Bipartisan members of Congress have worked all year on proposals aimed at curbing rising drug prices as polls show voters are increasingly worried about the issue. 

ADVERTISEMENT

PhRMA lobbied on dozens of bills related to the industry, according to the reports, including one proposed by Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiImpeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Klobuchar: 'I have seen no reason why' Hunter Biden would need to testify Johnson dismisses testimony from White House officials contradicting Trump as 'just their impression' MORE (D-Calif.) that would let the government negotiate the prices it pays for prescription drugs through Medicare. 

The industry has pushed back fiercely on the proposal, calling it government "price-setting" that would kill drug innovation.

Prescription drug companies have also sharply increased their lobbying amid a flurry of legislation targeting the industry.

Gilead, the maker of HIV drug Truvada, spent $1.5 million on its lobbying efforts in the third quarter of 2019, a 117 percent increase over what it spent during the same time frame last year.

Gilead has faced criticism for pricing Truvada at about $20,000 a year.

Several drug companies, including Amgen and Bayer, also lobbied on bills that would allow the importation of cheaper drugs from other countries, a proposal that is opposed by the industry. 

Amgen, whose drugs treat chronic illnesses, spent $3 million in the third quarter, a 16 percent increase over what it spent in the same time frame last year.

Meanwhile, Bayer, the maker of a top-selling prescription blood thinner, spent $2 million on lobbying in the third quarter, a 32 percent increase over what it spent during the same time frame last year. 

Drug companies, including AbbVie, are also lobbying on a proposal from the Trump administration that would tie what the U.S. pays for drugs to what other countries pay.

AbbVie spent $1.8 million on lobbying in the third quarter of 2019, a nearly 200 percent increase from what it spent in the same time frame last year. 

Sanofi, which has been under fire over the rising costs of insulin, spent $1.7 million on lobbying in the third quarter, an increase of 105 percent from what it spent during the same time frame last year. 

Some drug companies decreased the amount they spent on lobbying. 

Pfizer spent $1.6 million in the third quarter, compared to the $2.9 million it spent in the same time frame last year. 

Meanwhile, Eli Lilly spent $1.4 million on lobbying in the third quarter, a drop of $560,000 from the same time frame last year.