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PhRMA spent record-high $29 million on lobbying in 2019
The powerful trade group representing the prescription drug industry spent a record-high $29 million lobbying Congress in 2019, according to disclosure reports released Tuesday.
That is a 5 percent increase over what the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) spent in 2018, marking the most it has spent on lobbying in a single year.
Despite anger from lawmakers and the Trump administration over rising prescription drug costs, the industry ended 2019 mostly unscathed as Congress failed to pass any legislation to lower prices for consumers.
It is not clear if 2020 will be any different as it tends to be harder for Congress to pass major legislation in an election year.
But Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) hope their drug pricing bill is included in a health care spending package that must pass by May 22.
The bill, which is opposed by the industry but supported by President Trump, would cap how much companies can increase product prices. It didn't get a vote last year due to opposition from Senate Republicans.
While Grassley has said his bill has the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate, he needs more GOP support before Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will allow a vote.
McConnell is reluctant to make Republicans take a tough vote on a health care issue before the election, with the party hoping to keep control of the Senate.
A Democratic bill that would require the federal government negotiate lower prices for drugs covered by Medicare passed the House last year, but McConnell has said it is "dead on arrival" in the upper chamber. It is also opposed by the drug industry.
Lowering drug prices is also a top priority for Trump, but his agenda has been thwarted so far by the courts and opposition from special interests.
Still, the administration plans to finalize a rule this year that would allow some states to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada.
The administration is also working on a proposal that would tie what the U.S. pays for drugs to what other countries pay.
It is also appealing a ruling issued last year by a federal judge blocking a rule that would require drug companies to disclose the list price of their drugs in television advertising.
Despite spending millions on lobbying in 2019, the drug industry did face one major setback: the elimination of a pharma-friendly provision in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that would have given the manufacturers of some of the most expensive drugs 10 years of protection from generic competition.
The provision was stripped out by the Trump administration at the behest of House Democrats who viewed it as a giveaway for drug companies.