WASHINGTON — PhRMA, the eminent lobbying group for the pharmaceutical industry, spent more than $27.5 million on its lobbying activities in 2018 — the most the group has ever spent on lobbying in a single year.
The tally, as detailed in lobbying filings posted online on Tuesday, far outstrips the group’s previous record-setting spend, when it dropped a little more than $25 million in 2009, as Congress was deep in the debate over the Affordable Care Act. It spent just shy of that figure again in 2017.
The group’s eye-popping 2018 spending — sums that support some two dozen internal lobbyists as well as a crowd of external contractors — is a sign of the increasingly existential threat the drug industry faces in Washington. The Trump administration has ramped up its efforts to address high prescription drug prices with a flurry of new regulations, and congressional lawmakers also spent the last year turning up the volume on their own criticism of the industry’s practices. PhRMA represents most of the nation’s largest drug companies, including Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer (PFE), and Merck.
The Biotechnology Innovation Organization, the largest lobbying group for drug makers and smaller biotechnology companies, also spent a record $9.9 million on its own lobbying efforts, the filings show, surpassing its previous record in 2017.
Neither PhRMA nor BIO immediately commented on the filings.
PhRMA spent $6 million lobbying the government in the fourth quarter of 2018, up from $5.9 million in the comparable period the year before. Among the laundry list of bills and regulatory issues that PhRMA lobbied on: the Trump administration’s idea to peg what Medicare pays for drugs to what other countries pay and a Medicare coverage gap known as the donut hole. BIO, meanwhile, dropped $2.5 million in the fourth quarter, up from $2.36 million in the comparable period in 2017.
PhRMA’s pocketbook will only grow in 2019 with the recent edition of drug makers Genentech and Gilead to its ranks.