Pharmaceutical companies have enjoyed unprecedented
increases in profits in recent years, with drugs like Viagra and Prozac
becoming household names. One of the biggest spenders in politics, the
industry's generosity increased in the years leading up to Congress'
passage of a prescription drug benefit in Medicare in 2003.
Contributions from the industry declined in the 2004 cycle, however,
following the elimination of unlimited "soft" money contributions to
the national political parties.
Pharmaceutical companies are
regularly defending themselves from complaints that prescription drugs
cost too much, but recently the companies have had to contend with
serious safety concerns relating to painkillers such as Vioxx. Merck,
the drug's manufacturer, is at the center of at least 4,000 civil
lawsuits contending that the drug caused heart attacks and strokes in
those who took it. The controversy also has focused attention on the
Food and Drug Administration, which is viewed by critics as being too
close to the drug industry.
Companies in this
category also have their eyes trained on the Food and Drug
Administration and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The industry
continues to push for more streamlined patent application processing
and speedier drug approvals-both of which would increase the bottom
line substantially for pharmaceutical companies. The industry has even
expressed a willingness to pay higher application and user fees for
these quicker turnaround times.