US drugmakers and health insurers spent 30% more on political lobbying in the first nine months of 2009 than they did in the same period last year, new figures show.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) spent almost as much during this January-September period as it did for the whole of last year, according to new reports from the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) and Time magazine. In the first six months of this year, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and their trade bodies spent about $609,000 a day to influence legislators, according to Time.

Individual big spenders include Pfizer, whose lobbying spending for January-September this year is $16.3 million, up 83% on the same period of 2008, and Amgen, whose total of $9.1 million was an increase of about 20% on the like, year-earlier period, says the CRP.

The Center also notes that 3,185 health care lobbyists are registered in Washington, or six for every member of Congress, and a report this week by CBS News and journalists’ group ProPublica says that many of the most prominent lobbyists are former legislators and Congressional aides who helped shape the Medicare prescription drug programme (Part D) legislation back in 2003. At least 25 members of Congress and their staff who helped draft Part D have since gone through the “revolving door” back into highly lucrative lobbying jobs, the most prominent of whom is, of course, former Republican Representative for Louisiana Billy Tauzin, who now heads up PhRMA.

Rules governing use of the revolving door including a cooling-off period of two years for former Senators and their staff and one year for Representatives and their aides during which time they may not lobby their former colleagues. However, during this period they are free to take jobs with lobbying firms, and act as “advocates” and advisers.

Also this week the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has acknowledged that about 75% of the total donations which it received during 2006-8, or nearly $23 million, came from the pharmaceutical industry.
The Alliance has in the past refused to disclose the details of its donations, but the level of industry contributions has been revealed following an investigation by Republican Senator Charles Grassley and documents seen by the New York Times.

NAMI now acknowledges that this level has been “higher than we have wanted it to be,” at least during 2007, 2008 and 2009, and that industry’s share will be significantly lower next year. The group now also posts on its website the names of firms from which it receives contributions of $5,000 or more, a move which Sen Grassley has welcomed and called on other patient groups to do the same.