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Pharma Marketletter

Pharma "funding phony groups in California"

May 25, 2004

In response to a wave of US prescription drug cost-saving moves, drugmakers have dramatically boosted their lobbying activities in California, donated $325,000 to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's committees and funded phony grassroots groups to use as political cover, claims the consumer advocacy Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

As 42 state legislatures consider 330 cost-saving proposals (including19 in California), such as re-imports from Canada and letting states negotiate bulk discounts on drug prices, the industry has fought back, says the FTCR. Drugmakers and lobby groups in California spent 25% more lobbying the legislature in the first three months of 2004 than in first-quarter 2003. Also in the state, Allergan, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer together have contributed $ 550,000 to legislators and political parties since the start of 2003, it adds.

Challenge to Schwarzenegger

"To say the drug companies have greased the legislature would be an understatement," said FTCR spokesman Jerry Flanagan, adding: "whether or not Gov. Schwarzenegger supports prescription drug reform will be a litmus test of his commitment to stand up to special-interest groups."

Drugmakers have also funded several health care and advocacy groups in California, including the California Latino Medical Association, which opposes legislation to allow prescription drug re-imports. The Association's web site notes that its "generous sponsors" include Pfizer, Aventis, Roche, Johnson & Johnson and GSK, says the FTCR.

Another group, the 60 Plus Association, which receives funding from pharmaceutical companies and has lobbied Congress "purportedly" representing seniors for several years, is also opposing legislation for the safe re-importation of prescription drugs, the group adds.