Apr 21, 2017

Drug companies flood Congress with lobbyists

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

Trump acknowledges lists of disloyal government officials to oust

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump on Monday acknowledged the existence of assembled lists of government officials that his administration plans to oust and replace with trusted pro-Trump people, which were first reported by Axios' Jonathan Swan.

What he's saying: “I don’t think it's a big problem. I don’t think it's very many people,” Trump said during a press conference in India, adding he wants “people who are good for the country, loyal to the country.”

Coronavirus only part of the story behind the Dow’s drop

Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

As someone has certainly told you by now, the Dow fell by more than 1,000 points yesterday, its worst day in more than two years, erasing all of 2020's gains. Most news headlines assert that the stock market's momentum was finally broken by "coronavirus fears," but that's not the full story.

What's happening: The novel coronavirus has been infecting and killing scores of people for close to a month and, depending on the day, the market has sold off or risen to record highs.

Bernie's historic Jewish fight

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Sen. Bernie Sanders would be the first Jewish presidential nominee of a major American political party — but that history-making possibility is being overshadowed by his conflicts with America's Jewish leaders and Israel's leadership.

The big picture: That's partly because we're all focusing on the implications of Democrats nominating a self-described democratic socialist. It's also because a candidate's religion no longer seems to matter as much to voters or the media, making the potential milestone of a Jewish nominee more of a non-event.