harmaceutical and health products manufacturers contributed a total of $28,636,261, split evenly between the Democrats and Republicans, during the 2008 US election cycle. The sector’s total for the 2004 presidential election cycle was $17,824,366.

Companies in the sector also contributed a total of $18,972,121 to sitting members of the 110th Congress during the last election cycle, with the Democrats receiving 55% of these donations from individuals and Political Action Committees (PACs), according to the most recent data released by the Federal Election Commission and published on the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP)’s www.opensecrets.org website.

The industry’s biggest contributor to federal candidates and parties during the last election cycle was Pfizer, which gave $1,667,656, split 50/50 between the two major parties. The next largest donors were: Amgen on $1,401,032 – also split 50/50; Johnson & Johnson, which gave 60% of its total $1,201,264 donation to the Democrats and 40% to the Republicans; and GlaxoSmithKline, whose $1,182,200 went the other way - 40% to the Democrats and 60% to the Republicans.

Democratic Senator Barack Obama was, by a large margin, the biggest individual recipient of pharma/health products’ donations during the election cycle, receiving a total $1,985,000 entirely from individuals (not PACs), while fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton received $666,594, the figures also show.

McCain brings back import bill

Nearly $630,000 was donated by the sector to Republican presidential hopeful John McCain of Arizona, who last week cosponsored a bipartisan Senate bill which would allow US pharmacies and wholesalers to import Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medications from Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. The Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act would also permit individual consumers to buy prescription drugs from “safe, reliable FDA-inspected Canadian pharmacies.”

A similar Senate bill introduced in the last Congress was co-sponsored by Sens McCain and Obama, and supporters of the policy believe that the new President’s avowed backing for such a measure will ensure its success this time. His 2010 Budget proposal, unveiled last week, expressed support for new efforts by the FDA “to allow Americans to buy safe and effective drugs from other countries,” and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that the bill would produce $50 billion savings over the next decade.

However, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America has warned that such a measure could expose US consumers to substandard drugs and potentially weaken the FDA.

“The worldwide counterfeit threat is knocking at America’s door and will soon be greeted if prescription drug importation moves forward,” warned PhRMA senior vice president Ken Johnson. He also claimed that public interest in imports is “waning, in part due to the millions of seniors accessing medicines and saving money through the Medicare prescription drug programme, and consumer weariness in the aftermath of recalled tainted foreign products.”

- Meantime, Democratic Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee which has jurisdiction over Medicaid, Medicare and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), received $330,064 from contributors in the pharma/health products sector during the last election cycle, the CRP also reports.