Unhealthy lobbying: There is reason to fear the influence of Big Pharma


Click to follow
The Independent Online

The tactics of big pharmaceutical companies often come under the microscope. A report today lays bare the extent of their efforts to lobby Europe’s premier political institutions, both directly and indirectly.

This newspaper has long called for greater transparency when it comes to commercial lobbying of legislators. The Lobbying Act was introduced during the last parliament in response to domestic scandals – though the reforms it brought about were half-hearted, if not counter-productive. The focus of today’s report by campaigners from the Corporate Europe Observatory is Brussels, where the pharmaceutical industry spends a staggering €40m (£29m) a year gaining access to European Commission politicians and officials. In fact, the figure is almost certainly higher because the declaration of EC lobbying remains voluntary.

Taking full advantage of easy access, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations had more than 50 meetings with commissioners during the EC President Jean-Claude Juncker’s first four-and-a-half months in charge. European corridors of power seem as likely to be walked by Big Pharma cheerleaders as by elected leaders.

With a record number of drug patents soon to expire, the world’s pharmaceutical giants are understandably anxious to secure future markets. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has provided a further impetus to their efforts to influence political debate. If the wheeler-dealing resulted only in medical advances and cheaper drugs, perhaps critical voices would not be heard.

But the pharmaceutical industry’s reputation precedes it. The antipathy of many firms to calls for the publication of all scientific trial data – even when it relates to historical research – is enough to confirm that commercial sensitivities are often prioritised above the common weal.