10 Mar Drug Companies Pour Money Into Decision-Makers in Congress
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Olivier Wouters, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Health Policy
Department of Health Policy
London School of Economics and Political Science
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: Although both Democrats and Republicans consider lowering prescription drug prices a priority, lobbyists and campaign donors in the pharmaceutical industry may counteract efforts by federal and state governments to decrease these costs.
In this study, I tracked every dollar spent by the pharmaceutical and health product industry on lobbying and campaign contributions in the US from 1999 to 2018.
These data were obtained from the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in Politics—two non-profit, non-partisan US organizations.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: The pharmaceutical and health product industry spent $4.7 billion lobbying the US federal government from 1999 to 2018. This works out to an average of $233 million per year, more than any other industry in the US. The industry spent another $1.3 billion on contributions to political campaigns in federal and state elections during this period.
Nearly all of the forty legislators in Congress that received the most money from this industry served on committees responsible for healthcare matters. Many of the top recipients held senior positions in these committees. Officials from both main political parties were major beneficiaries of drug industry contributions.
More than twice as much money was spent by drug industry on state elections as on federal elections. The industry seemed to be trying to influence the outcomes of state referenda on measures aimed at lowering drug costs.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: When reaching legislative and policy decisions, Congress and the executive branch benefit from fully considering the interests of all parties in society, not just those who seek to improve their access to officials through contributions and lobbying.
The electorate should be aware of financial ties between legislators and drug industry groups when making informed voting decisions, especially in an election year where drug pricing is a hot-button issue.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: These findings can help inform fact-based discussions about money in health care politics and future research on the influence of lobbying on policy outcomes.
Wouters OJ. Lobbying Expenditures and Campaign Contributions by the Pharmaceutical and Health Product Industry in the United States, 1999-2018. JAMA Intern Med. Published online March 03, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.0146
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