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Mar 13 / Jonathan

PhRMA is making new friends in Congress

Jeffrey Birnbaum in the Washington Post. No comment is really required, is it?

The pharmaceutical industry, long an ally of Republicans, has increasingly worked itself into the good graces of the Democratic Party and by doing so has helped block the Democrats’ top prescription-drug initiatives.

In the year since they took over on Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders have been unable to pass either a bill allowing reimportation of drugs from Canada or a measure requiring negotiation of drug prices under Medicare. Neither is likely to reach the president’s desk this year. Lawmakers on both sides of these issues say the primary reason is the influence, now redirected, of the drug lobby.

Drug companies have gone on a hiring binge, retaining Democratic lobbyists in dozens of major firms. This strategy, which K Streeters call “clogging the system,” prevents adversaries from hiring anyone from those consultancies.

In years past, when pharmaceuticals leaned heavily Republican, Democrats did not have much reason to cut them a break or side with them on policy. Democrats won control of Congress in 2006 in part by accusing Republicans of being too close to drug companies and other “special interests.” But now that pharmaceutical money is available to both parties, the drug companies have reason to hope for better treatment.

The Democratic takeover of Congress means “we just have more friends than we used to have,” said PhRMA President W.J. “Billy” Tauzin, a former Republican congressman from Louisiana. “We’re trying to find more.”

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