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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Andrew Harnik / AP

The pharmaceutical industry heavily increased how much it spent on lobbyists in the first quarter of 2017, just as President Trump entered office and skewered drug companies for their high prices. There's bipartisan support for tackling rising drug costs, but drug makers clearly want to maintain the status quo and have tried to turn attention to wholesalers and middlemen in the supply chain.

The details: Axios reviewed lobbying disclosures for 61 of the largest health care companies and trade groups. Those organizations spent more than $90.6 million on lobbying in the first three months of this year, a 20% jump from the $75.7 million in the first quarter of 2016. Twenty-five drug companies and groups — led by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Novartis, Pfizer, Amgen, Teva and Bayer — all significantly bumped up their lobbying expenses.

Here's how a handful of drug companies spent their lobbying dollars so far in 2017 compared with the same period in 2016.

  • PhRMA: $7.98 million vs. $5.95 million
  • Novartis: $4 million vs. $3.09 million
  • Pfizer: $3.74 million vs. $3.28 million
  • Amgen: $3.02 million vs. $1.75 million
  • Teva Pharmaceuticals: $2.67 million vs. $1.24 million
  • Bayer: $2.45 million vs. $2.13 million
  • Biotechnology Innovation Organization: $2.30 million vs. $2.26 million
  • Sanofi: $1.9 million vs. $1.01 million
  • GlaxoSmithKline: $1.64 million vs. $1.49 million
  • Mylan: $1.45 million vs. $610,000
  • Eli Lilly: $1.39 million vs. $1.25 million

PhRMA was the largest lobbying spender in the health care sector in the quarter, but the American Medical Association was close behind at $6.83 million. The American Hospital Association had a lobbying price tag of $4.56 million.

Several health insurance groups also reached deeper into their pockets to sway the new Congress. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association ($2.15 million), UnitedHealth Group ($1.65 million), Anthem ($1.64 million), Aetna ($1.38 million) and Cigna ($1.15 million) each boosted their lobbying expenses in the first quarter compared with the same period a year ago. Changes to the Obamacare marketplaces and repealing Obamacare's health insurance tax were at the tops of their wish lists.

However, American's Health Insurance Plans — the industry's main lobbying group that does not include Aetna or UnitedHealth as members — lowered its spending from $2.21 million to $1.65 million.

Go deeper

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.

10 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.

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