Big Pharma’s big spend for ‘privileged access’ to EU lawmakers

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Pharmaceutical companies spend tens of millions of euros on lobbyists every year to ensure “privileged access” to decision-makers in Brussels. The Independent reports that this is according to a major new report that lifts the lid on their influence on EU drugs and health-care policy.

The industry now spends at least €40m annually – 15 times more than NGOs and consumer groups, according to estimates – as representatives from “big pharma” enjoy a “staggering” number of meetings with European Commission departments and officials, the report says.

The report published by research and campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) reveals: the influential European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (Efpia) had over 50 meetings with the EU’s executive body during Jean-Claude Juncker’s first four and a half months as head of the Commission; the “corporate dominance” of Commission expert groups by industry representatives appearing in a “personal capacity”, using high-level access to influence EU policy; the increasing use of “Pharmish” – a form of “doublespeak” creeping from industry documents into EU rhetoric, which manipulates public understanding; and how patients are effectively asked to fund drug “research” costs twice, as many costs are already covered by taxpayer-funded universities that often carry out research and development before pharma companies buy the rights.

Among the EU laws targeted or shaped by the industry include rules around clinical trials’ data transparency, trade secrets, and the negotiation of the EU-US trade deal, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the report said.

A total of 40 pharmaceutical companies now appear on the EU’s transparency register – up from 23 in January 2012 with Bayer AG, GlaxoSmith-Kline and Novartis topping the list, having spent €6.5m on lobbying last year alone. But under-reporting and the continued avoidance by some firms of the EU’s voluntary transparency system mean that overall big pharma lobbying outlay is likely to be much higher, CEO claims. Efpia, whose lobbying expenditure has gone from €50, 000 in 2010 to more than €5m last year, plays a “covert and explicit” role in shaping the policy agenda, by sending lobbyists in a “personal capacity” to sit in on the Commission’s expert groups, the report said. Efpia representatives appear on official advisory bodies concerning alcohol and health, corporate responsibility, and implications of patent law in biotechnology and genetic engineering.

Efpia was yet to respond to the report. But with a record number of drug patents set to expire over the next few years, allowing cheaper generic drugs to be produced and threatening industry profits, the huge increase in lobbying spending coincides with a critical time for the sector.

Rachel Tansey, CEO researcher and author of the report, said: “The large-scale efforts of big pharmaceutical companies to mould EU policy to their own commercial benefit and their privileged access to EU decision-makers is deeply worrying. Strong measures are needed to avoid capture of EU health policy by big pharma, beginning with full transparency over industry lobbying and ending of privileged access.”

Full report in The Independent
Corporate Europe Observatory report

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