After nine months of fund-raising, the Republican candidate for the US presidency who has received the largest amount from the pharmaceuticals and health care industries is former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, with a total of $260,535 from the two industries, according to the website www.opensecrets.org, which bills itself as "Your Guide to the Money in US Elections".

In the first of two televised debates between the Republican candidates in New Hampshire, just days before voters in that state go to the polls, Mr Romney launched a spirited defence of the pharmaceutical industry after the it came in for strong criticism from other candidates during a discussion on health care costs. Mr Romney urged them not to “turn the pharmaceutical companies into the big bad guys,” prompting Arizona Senator John McCain to snap back: “well, they are.”

Sen McCain has received $69,300 from the pharmaceutical and health products industries during the nine months, according to opensecrets, which adds that sector has contributed the following amounts to the other candidates who took part in the New Hampshire debate: former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani - $138,850; ex-Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson - $26,900; Texas Congressman Ron Paul - $20,568; and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee - $500. The sector has also contributed the following to other Republican candidates; Kansas Senator Sam Brownback - $12,750; California Congressman Duncan Hunter - $4,050; and Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo - $3,250.

Hillary, Obama clash over lobbyist’s pharma links
Mr Romney’s donation from the pharmaceutical/health sector is only slightly below the $261,784 which it has contributed to Democratic hopeful Senator Barak Obama from Illinois, while New York Senator Hillary Clinton has received $269,436 from the companies, the website states. During the Democrat candidates’ public debate in New Hampshire last weekend, Sen Clinton claimed that Jim Demers, one of Sen Obama’s campaign co-chairman in the state of being a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry. Sen Obama replied “that’s not so,” but the website of the New Hampshire Department of State shows that Mr Demers is in fact registered as a lobbyist for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and for Pfizer.

– Other donations to Democratic candidates from the pharmaceuticals/health products industries are: Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd - $84,400; New Mexico governor Bill Richardson - $28,950; former North Carolina Senator John Edwards - $15,000; Senator for Delaware Joseph Biden Jr - $13,425; Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich - $5,100; and former Senator for Alaska Mike Gravel - $2,208.

The candidates are required to present their year-end donation reports to the Federal Election Commission by January 31.