PHARMA: PhRMA members learn to play the game

So I can’t quite stay away from the Bill….

In a reminder of how hardball politics is played in the USA these days, there’s a report out today (hat tip to California Healthline) that shows that in the first 6 months of 2003 the healthcare industry spent over $139m on lobbying in the run-up to Medicare bill. $37.7m came from the pharma industry. This number probably includes standard costs associated with keeping Washington offices, etc. so it’s not all "new" money. But obviously much more has been spent in the last four months, and there’s no doubt that, as in its successful attempt to defeat certain House Democrats who were in favor of price controls in the run-up to the 2000 elections, targeted contributions and lobbying have had a definitive pay-off for the pharma industry in this Bill.

This is no secret in health care.  The AHA, for-profit hospital groups and the AMA have been doing this forever in order to influence the Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement schedules.  The drug companies have too, of course, but as they were previously opposed to drug coverage, their contributions weren’t quite so targeted.  Now that the industry has decided to buy the best bill it can, you can see the results in the text of the bill–especially the import ban from Canada.  The ongoing federalization of the health care system continues.  It’s starting to look more and more like the Defense department and the military industrial complex–you can expect the lobbying/business techniques in that industry to become more common in health care.

This post is not meant as criticism of PhRMA.  Their fiduciary interest is to their shareholders, and once they saw that politically drug coverage was unavoidable, that interest means to get as much money as possible out of the government. And the way to do that in the USA is by using money to buy influence. In the light of the even more pork-laden energy bill coming out the same week–and you know that there was equal lobbying weight on that one too–more disinterested observers may believe that campaign finance reform needs a little strengthening. But that’s in a parallel universe and we and PhRMA live in this one.

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