Democratic senators are pressing the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) to provide more information about its lobbying efforts amid the pandemic.
In a letter to PhRMA CEO Stephen Ubl, Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Hill’s Morning Report – Dems to go-it-alone on infrastructure as bipartisan plan falters Democratic patience runs out on bipartisan talks NYC progressives anxiously watch Maya Wiley’s ascent MORE (D-Mass.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders opposes Biden Interior nominee in procedural vote Briahna Joy Gray on how Sanders changed the healthcare conversation Sanders ‘delighted’ DeSantis asked White House to import Canadian prescription drugs MORE (I-Vt.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocratic patience runs out on bipartisan talks Zombie Tax punishes farmers to fill DC coffers Progressives threaten to block bipartisan infrastructure proposal MORE (D-R.I.) and Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinTo reverse the teaching shortage in low-income communities, give educators incentive to stay Senate Democrats offer bill to scrap tax break for investment managers Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap MORE (D-Wis.) asked the trade group and its member companies to disclose their lobbying spending to oppose a measure to waive intellectual property projections on COVID-19 vaccines.
The lawmakers also asked for specifics on the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to oppose Democratic legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs.
“While taking credit for the development of new COVID vaccines – which were developed with massive infusions of federal funds – the pharmaceutical industry has not backed off of its efforts to block drug pricing proposals and maintain the status quo,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter sent Wednesday.
Drugmakers have renewed clout in Washington after successfully manufacturing lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines. But progressives criticized pharmaceutical firms such as Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson for lobbying against a waiver meant to allow lower-income nations to manufacture their own doses.
The Biden administration last month said it would back the waiver in negotiations with the World Trade Organization. PhRMA’s Ubl blasted the decision, saying it would “sow confusion between public and private partners, further weaken already strained supply chains and foster the proliferation of counterfeit vaccines.”
The pharmaceutical industry spends more on lobbying than any other industry, according to OpenSecrets.org. Drugmakers spent $92 million through the first three months of 2021. PhRMA was the industry’s top lobbying spender, shelling out nearly $9 million.
The lawmakers’ letter asks PhRMA and its member companies to disclose their lobbying spending on each specific issue, and report how many lobbyists were part of the effort. That level of detail typically isn’t disclosed in lobbying filings.
“We are reviewing the letter, and we will continue our efforts to work with policymakers on solutions to lower what patients pay out of pocket for prescription medicines and ensure equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines,” PhRMA spokesperson Brian Newell said in a statement.
News of the letter was first reported by CNBC.
Last week, President BidenJoe BidenJapan to possibly ease COVID-19 restrictions before Olympics 14 Republicans vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday China supplies millions of vaccine doses to developing nations in Asia MORE announced the U.S. would donate 500 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine to lower-income countries. Officials are stressing the need for worldwide vaccinations to fight a deadly COVID-19 variant that has already reached 74 countries and continues to spread.
The vaccine rollout has highlighted worldwide health disparities. Last week, the World Health Organization said just 2 percent of people in Africa have received one dose, compared to 52 percent in the U.S.