The drug industry is under attack in Washington.
Drug-price increases, and in particular price gouging, are a hot topic with the House of Representatives holding hearings on the matter.
It doesn’t help that the No. 1 target of the public’s ire chose to smirk and tweet his way through the hearings. But despite its efforts to distance itself from Martin Shkreli, the drug industry as a whole is being dragged into the debate.
“These tactics are not limited to a few ‘bad apples,’ but are prominent throughout the industry,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) wrote last week in a memo, referring to the practice of jacking up drug prices.
The lobbying groups that oversee pharmaceutical companies’ interests have their work cut out for them, and they have ramped up spending in response. According to the the Center for Responsive Politics companies that make drugs spent $145 million in 2015 on lobbying the government, up from $138 million in 2014.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the pharmaceutical industry’s largest trade group, spent $18.4 million on lobbying efforts in 2015 — its first spending increase since 2009 when spending peaked at over $26 million.
One place spending will go is an ad campaign aimed at lawmakers and other political influencers on social media, the Wall Street Journal reports. According to The Journal, PhRMA plans to spend 10% more than they did in 2015 on ads that intend to show how the industry advances research and development for new medical treatments.
Here’s one of the new ads. It doesn’t directly address the issue of drug pricing, but rather focuses on the industry’s role in developing new treatments for diseases like cancer and diabetes. This ad was released February 1:
We’ve reached out to PhRMA about the campaign and will update this post when we hear back.
While the cost — often more than $1 billion — of bringing a new drug from the lab to the pharmacy is often offered as the justification for high prices in practice it doesn’t seem to be a primary factor.
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