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Expand chart
Data: Company filings; Chart: Axios Visuals

In 2018, the year the Republican tax law went into full effect, 12 of the largest pharmaceutical companies spent more money buying back their stock than they spent on drug research and development.

The big picture: When billions of dollars became available to the biggest drug companies, their main priority was to juice earnings, along with the paydays of their executives and investors — not investments in new treatments or relief for patients who can't afford their drugs.

By the numbers: Axios analyzed the stock buybacks and R&D expenses of the 12 largest American pharmaceutical companies, by revenue, between 2016 and 2019.

  • These companies repurchased $69.1 billion of their stock in 2018, while spending $65.9 billion on researching new medicines.
  • Over the entire four-year period, stock buybacks for these 12 companies totaled $183 billion, and research expenses were $251 billion. They're sitting on another $47 billion that has been earmarked for stock buybacks.
  • Two drugmakers — Amgen and Biogen — spent more on stock buybacks for the entire period than they spent on R&D. Amgen's stock repurchases ($31.6 billion) were more than twice as much as research ($15.3 billion).

What they're saying: Amgen said in a statement that it repurchased large quantities of stock because the tax law allowed the company to bring home cash that was parked overseas. Biogen submitted a statement saying it has a "deep commitment to R&D," but did not address questions about its stock buybacks.

Go deeper: See the company-by-company analysis

Go deeper

U.S. women's soccer team beats Netherlands, moves on to Olympic semifinals

Photo: Francois Nel/Getty Images

The U.S. women's soccer team beat the Netherlands in a penalty kick shootout on Friday, propelling them to the semifinals of the Olympic Games.

Why it matters: The win brings the U.S. team one step closer to its quest for a historic back-to-back double — winning the Olympics after emerging victorious at the Women's World Cup. The U.S. will play Canada in the semifinals next week.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
15 mins ago - World

SEC clamps down on Chinese IPOs

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Chinese companies will be unable to go public in the U.S. unless they make new risk disclosures, according to a statement released Friday morning from SEC chair Gary Gensler.

Why it matters: Chinese companies, and tech startups in particular, are already under growing pressure from their own government. Now they're also getting squeezed by U.S. officials.

37 mins ago - Sports

U.S. swimmer Ryan Murphy causes stir with doping comments

Bronze medallist Britain's Luke Greenbank, gold medallist Russia's Evgeny Rylov and silver medallist USA's Ryan Murphy pose with their medals after the final of the men's 200m backstroke. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand /AFP via Getty Images

U.S. swimmer Ryan Murphy raised questions about the presence of doping in swimming following a second-place finish in the men's 200-meter backstroke on Thursday.

Driving the news: Murphy, who won gold in the 200-meter backstroke race in Rio, said following his race: "At the end of the day, I do believe there’s doping in swimming. That is what it is."