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WASHINGTON — The beleaguered pharmaceutical industry’s top lobbying group spent about $8 million to influence the federal government during the first quarter of 2017, a roughly 33 percent hike over last year at this time — and its biggest expansion in at least five years.

The surge is not a surprise. Earlier this year, a lobbyist for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, PhRMA, told STAT they planned to donate less and lobby more. They also raised their members’ dues to pay for more lobbying power.

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