The huge sums that the pharmaceutical industry spends on lobbying US politicians and the influence the drugmakers wield has come under the spotlight in a new report.

The Centre for Public Integrity, a non-profitmaking public policy research watchdog, says that the Industry has spent more than $800 million dollars in lobbying and campaign donations in the past seven years, adding “no other industry has spent more money to sway public policy in that period.”

It goes on to claim that “the drug industry’s huge investments in Washington – though meagre compared to the profits they make – have paid off handsomely, resulting in a series of favourable laws on Capitol Hill and tens of billions of dollars in additional profits” and argues that the industry’s “multi-faceted influence campaign has also led to a more industry-friendly regulatory policy at the Food and Drug Administration.”

The CPI then proceeds to reel off a vast list of figures which include the fact that in the time covered by the report, drugmakers have hired about 3,000 lobbyists, more than a third of them former federal officials, to advance their interests and in 2003 alone, it spent nearly $116 million lobbying the government.

The CPI notes that 2003 was the year the Medicare Modernisation Act, which created a taxpayer-funded prescription drug benefit for senior citizens, and that, in 2004, lobby spend went up to $123 million. It notes: “For Washington’s biggest spending lobby, it’s a small investment to make for its continuing prosperity.”

Given the tone of the report, it was not surprising that Ken Johnson, senior vice president for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, claimed that it was “clearly biased and one-sided.” He added that “today’s regulations and laws encourage companies to take risks as they pursue cutting-edge research and spend nearly $50 billion a year to develop new and better medications that allow people to live longer, healthier lives.”