How Big Pharma Is Fighting Back Against the Government

February 14th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

The pharmaceutical industry has become a regular target of criticism from the public and government officials for its drug pricing practices — especially after former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli raised the price of a life-saving drug by about 5,000 percent last year. Now drug companies appear to be gearing up for a fight against negative perceptions of the industry.

While Shkreli became a symbolic and contentious figure within the industry — due in part to his dismissive attitude about controversial drug pricing practices — his former drug company is by no means the only pharmaceutical company under fire.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and other major drug makers have stoked public anger recently for similar issues.

How they are fighting back.

In response to this surge in criticism, drug companies are ramping up advertising budgets and spending more on lobbying efforts, attempting to change the national conversation about Big Pharma.

Lobbying groups that represent drug companies spent a collective $145 million in 2015, the Center for Responsive Politics found. That's up from $138 million in 2014.


"The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the pharmaceutical industry's largest trade group, spent $18.4 million on lobbying efforts in 2015 — its first spending increase since 2009 when spending peaked at over $26 million," Business Insider reported. "One place spending will go is an ad campaign."

PhRMA plans to increase its advertising budget by about 10 percent, putting money toward an ad campaign meant to highlight the industry's research and development goals, for example. For a preview of that campaign — which is reportedly aimed at lawmakers and political influencers — check out this commercial, released February 1.

The message is simple: "We're Fighting Back." But is it a loaded message? The commercial is meant to convey the idea that PhRMA is "fighting back" against diseases through its research and development investments, but it also seems clear that the drug company is attempting to influence public perception by highlighting some of the positive efforts of the industry.

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