Drugmakers' victories in Washington could keep health costs high, trade office warns

The pharmaceutical industry spent $110 million in just the first half of 2009 in its efforts to influence health care reform, part of a booming lobbying effort that now has 2.3 drug lobbyists on Capitol Hill for every member of Congress, a new investigative report reveals.

Writing in Time magazine, Karen Tumulty and Michael Scherer report that Big Pharma's efforts to protect their interests in health care reform amounts to an expenditure of $609,000 per day, and "they're getting a pretty good return on their investment," Tumulty told CNN's John King on Thursday.

"It's not just the lobbyists," Tumulty said. "The money goes into a lot of other things. It finances a lot of so-called research, expert reports, consultant reports. A lot of do-good organizations are springing up with names that sound like quite beneficial organizations, but you look at them and it turns out the whole thing is being run by drug companies."

As evidence of drugmakers' clout on the Hill, Tumulty pointed to a major victory for the group earlier this summer, when the House and Senate voted to extend patent protection of biotechnology drugs -- biologics, as they are known -- by an additional 12 years.

The move to grant them extra protection from generic drug makers was opposed by the Federal Trade Commission, which argued that extending patent protection could stifle innovation and keep drug costs high.

"These bio-tech drugs -- they're miracle drugs -- are probably going to be something like half of all new drugs being approved," Tumulty said. "And the big fight right now is whether there will ever be a generic equivalent for these drugs that cost $20,000, $40,000 or even $200,000 per year to administer."

Tumulty noted that it's practically impossible to trace all the money being spent in Washington to influence health care reform, because "it's going not only into the campaign coffers of elected officials and salaries of lobbyists, but also into organizations that are essentially front groups for these interests, and into scientific-sounding consultant reports."

Tumulty warned that the American public could be the "losers" in all of this.

"On some of these key questions you've got to say the lobbyists are getting pretty much everything they're asking for," she told CNN's John Roberts. "And considering how important it is to bring down health care costs in the long run, I think the rest of us are the losers."

This video is from CNN's American Morning, broadcast Oct. 22, 2009.

Download video via RawReplay.com