Big Pharma Lobbies Up

Bill Scher

When it comes to health care, will the new Congress, unlike the previous conservative Congress, side with the public interest over the special interest?

The pharmaceutical giants are worried the answer is yes.

So they’re hooking up with Democratic lobbyists in hopes of keeping Congress in their corner. Bloomberg has the story:

Pharmaceutical companies … are among the companies scrambling to hire lobbyists with Democratic ties as they prepare for congressional investigative hearings next week.

Pfizer Inc., the world’s biggest drugmaker, has hired the Glover Park Group, whose partners include Joe Lockhart, a former spokesman for President Bill Clinton, and Howard Wolfson, a spokesman for Senator Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Roche Holding AG picked as its lobbyist William Clyburn, cousin of the House’s third-ranking Democrat, Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.

The increased hiring coincides with the Democratic congressional sweep that has sent shudders through corporate boardrooms.

The pharmaceutical industry, which the Center for Responsive Politics says gave 68 percent of its 2006 campaign gifts to Republicans, may be the biggest target for investigators. The House voted Jan. 12 to require the Medicare program, which provides health care for the elderly and disabled, to negotiate prices with drug companies; five congressional committees plan hearings into industry practices, including the generic-drug approval process and drug safety.

The Senate has yet to act on that House bill, and there have been reports that unlike the House, Sen. Max Baucus’ bill will not require negotiation of drug prices.

So the stepped-up lobbying — along with the early ad campaign (I’m regularly seeing “Medicare’s prescription drug benefit. It’s working!” ads from PhRMA, the industry lobbying arm, on cable news) — could have an impact.

If grassroots voices can’t shout over their well-financed megaphone.

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