Merck has spent almost $1.2 million lobbying the US government on health and pharmaceutical issues – just in the second quarter of this year.

In the first quarter, the US company racked up $1.04 million in lobbying. But the lobbying expenses for the first six months of 2007 topped this year’s efforts by almost an extra $100,000, according to disclosure forms filed with the Office of the Clerk, US House of Representatives.

The pharmaceutical industry has shovelled millions of dollars into lobbying over the last few years with intents to bring about changes to laws and bills being passed through government.

Last year, pharmaceuticals and health care products spent more on lobbying than any other industry. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) spent more than $22 million last year, which was an increase of 25% on the 2006 year, according to records published by the Centre for Responsive Politics.

Merck’s lobbying included:

- opposing efforts to permit the importation of cheaper prescription drugs into the US.
- Supporting demonstration projects to assess the short-term and long-term effectiveness of obesity management programmes and supported congressional interest in obesity awareness efforts.
- Supporting increased funding for both the FDA and the CDC’s National Immunisation Programme.
- Supporting amendments to patent reform legislation.
- Opposing efforts to amend the Medicare Modernisation Act to impose government price controls on prescription drugs.
- Opposing the expansion of or increase in Medicaid rebate.
- Supporting intellectual property protections in trade negotiations.

Merck’s interest in obesity programmes seems to stem from company’s currently developing drug taranabant, which is in late stage clinical trials and had hoped to be filed by the end of the year.

Results for the drug have been positive on the whole, but concerns have risen over the fact taranabant is of the same class as cannabinoid-based obesity drug Acomplia (rimonanbant) from Sanofi-Aventis.

Acomplia was recently approved in the UK amid controversy over the high risks of suicide as an adverse event associated with the drug.