What are pharmaceutical companies lobbying for exactly?


I have been wondering what public policy or specific incentives pharmaceutical companies would even hold in lobbying for US elections...

Top Spenders according to OpenSecrets

... According to this Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America has spent over $336,385,300 on lobbying alone in the United states. So I guess the main question here is to what policy, or legislation is all that money going to?


Posted 2018-04-18T23:38:51.013

Reputation: 61

6The trivial answer would be “for their interests”. Otherwise, I think the question is too broad. – chirlu – 2018-04-18T23:56:18.857

The big one is likely pushing that we never enact a single payer system. – None – 2018-04-19T00:42:31.313



Among the kinds of legislation that pharma companies lobby for are:

  1. Strong patents.

  2. Opposition to restrictions on their prices.

  3. Oppositions to products liability expansion and class actions.

  4. Reductions in FDA approval costs and time.

  5. Opposition to marijuana legalization.

  6. Support for increased Medicare/Medicaid/government programs that pays for drugs funding, but opposition to single payer and other features of government programs that could allow for price controls.

  7. Support for public research grant expenditures.

  8. Opposition to importation of foreign drugs and free trade in prescription drugs.

  9. Support for the R&D tax credit and favorable rules regarding amortization and depreciation of their expenses, and favorable tax rules in general.

  10. Opposition to stronger antitrust legislation.


Posted 2018-04-18T23:38:51.013

Reputation: 34 346

1>5 seems strange. Citations? (well, all of these would benefit from citations, but the rest seem obvious and uncontrovercial)< – user4012 – 2018-04-19T03:11:26.313


@user4012 I used to be a partner in a law firm with the chair of the state house health care committee, so I've had lots of first hand interactions with health care lobbyists and I am listing what I recall (I've also met them while representing MMJ clients). This is very much the case now in Colorado and very much conventional wisdom. Marijuana legalization reduces opioid consumption and also consumption of many other kinds of drugs and they don't get a percentage of it. See, e.g., https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/03/big-pharma-marijuana-competition-insys-arizona

– ohwilleke – 2018-04-19T03:54:12.337

1@user4012 A pharmaceutical company cannot patent it or control its production. It competes with products that they can patent as a potential treatment. – Tal – 2018-04-19T18:58:56.063

@tal - it's the "competes with" that makes no sense. P.S. If it can be sold and competes, they can sell themselves. – user4012 – 2018-04-19T19:48:52.027

1@user4012 : But there's little to no profit to be made, as anyone can do it. If it means that people won't need the expensive medication that they have exclusive rights to, they effectively lose company value immediately. And with the current unknowns (state legalization w/out federal legalization), no large company is going to get involved with it, as it's a huge risk to get involved with (especially as banks won't accept the money, so they typically have to work in cash) – Joe – 2018-04-19T23:37:35.523

@Joe - seriously? If there's little profit, why is everyone wanting to sell drugs? at the risk of being put to jail, too – user4012 – 2018-04-20T01:02:17.570

@user4012 : There's little profit when selling a substance that anyone else can sell, vs. the amount that can be made when you have a monopoly on the substance (ie, a patent). If you're asking why people are willing to sell marijuana, smaller companies aren't as risk adverse as larger ones. If you can't make profits, you declare bankruptcy ... but a larger company has to write down the investment. And the risk of jail ... I suspect that there are groups that are just waiting for the first federal case, so they can argue against the schedule 1 classification who would help them out. – Joe – 2018-04-20T01:33:45.683

1@user4012 The current market is driven by the prohibition and risk. Its practically a weed. WIthout the legal issues, anyone could grow it in a garden. You could have fields of it. It would be like a company's expensive prescription narcotics having to compete with the market price of parsley. – Tal – 2018-04-20T12:55:30.163

1@Tal - tell that to Whole Foods. They sell boatloads of overpriced parsley, and seem to make money off of it :) – user4012 – 2018-04-20T14:36:40.857

3@user4012 You seem to have a basic misunderstanding of these businesses. Whole Foods has a profit margin somewhere around 2.5%. Even at their most over-priced, they were somewhere around 6%. Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company, currently has a profit margins above 40%. Pharmaceutical companies make money on things that are cheap to make, but which they control intellectual property rights over. Allowing them to set the price. That is why extremely favorable patent laws are another of their chief concerns. – Tal – 2018-04-20T15:16:34.897

@Joe Criminal defendants cannot challenge the Scheduling of a drug in a criminal prosecution. – ohwilleke – 2018-04-20T16:48:55.907

One more item for your list: Vaccination requirements for children in public schools (when they're the ones making the vaccine, of course). – dan04 – 2018-04-21T06:08:25.590

@dan04 While that seems logical, I've never seen that happen. Vaccines for kids are generic drugs which aren't very profitable. – ohwilleke – 2018-04-21T14:16:00.203

@Tal: Not cheap to make. Cheap to make more of. Getting that first dose onto the market is extremely expensive, not only in terms of regulation etc, but also in terms of the costs of developing the process of making it. – Ben Voigt – 2018-04-21T23:46:25.647

This list seems somewhat repetitive, and boils down to three things: reducing expenses, (externalization, tax breaks, impunity, less regulation), increasing benefits, (grants), and maintaining unusual rates of profit, (via monopolies on various pills and nostrums, anti-competitive measures, de facto tariffs). And those three reduce to: love of money. – agc – 2018-04-23T05:46:25.150

@agc Reductionism is for physicists and economists. Political scientists value maximal detail. – ohwilleke – 2018-04-23T15:47:13.180