Big Pharma – Power & Political Might…
Big Pharma is the nickname given to the world's vast and influential pharmaceutical industry and its trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America or PhRMA. These powerful companies make billions of dollars every year by selling drugs and medical devices.
Big Pharma wields enormous influence over the prescription drug and medical device markets around the globe. In the U.S., the industry contributes heavily to the annual budget of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is charged with regulating drugs and devices made by those same companies.
The industry demonstrates its power, political might and social influence over the nation’s governments and agencies, its health care systems, its doctors and hospitals, as well as the psyche of the American people.
The global market for pharmaceuticals topped $1 trillion in sales in 2014. The world’s 10 largest drug companies generated $429.4 billion of that revenue. Five of the top 10 companies are headquartered in the U.S.: Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Abbot Laboratories, Merck and Eli Lilly.
With the help of staggering profits and 1,100-plus paid lobbyists, the industry has gained powerful leverage on Capitol Hill. From 1998 to 2014, Big Pharma spent nearly $2.9 billion on lobbying expenses — more than any other industry. The industry also doled out more than $15 million in campaign contributions from 2013-14.
But the large amount of cash Big Pharma bestows on government representatives and regulatory bodies is small when compared with the billions it spends each year on direct-to-consumer advertising. The U.S. is one of only two countries in the world whose governments allow prescription drugs to be advertised on TV (the other is New Zealand).
A single manufacturer, Boehringer Ingelheim, spent $464 million advertising its blood thinner Pradaxa in 2011. The following year, the drug passed the $1 billion sales mark. The money in this business appears to be well-spent.