Pharma & Politics: A great match

Every year, pharmaceutical companies contribute millions of dollars to U.S. senators and representatives as part of a multipronged effort to influence health care lawmaking and spending priorities. For example, Sen. Tim Scott, a rising star in the Republican Party with broad popularity in South Carolina, is getting showered with drug industry money before facing voters this fall.

According to, Congress is under intense pressure to rein in the high prices of medicines in the U.S., often several times those in other developed countries. Roughly 1 in 4 adults report difficulty affording their prescription drugs, according to KFF polling. Further, 83% of Americans support the idea of Medicare negotiating with pharmaceutical firms to lower prices for both its beneficiaries and those with private insurance — that’s 95% of Democrats, 82% of independents, and 71% of Republicans.

The industry needs people like Scott, who has introduced several health-related bills in recent years and maintains drug industry-friendly positions in its corner. He opposes proposals submitted in legislation backed by most Democrats in Congress to let Medicare negotiate prices. In 2019, when the Senate Finance Committee considered a drug pricing bill crafted by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Scott voted against a measure that amended the legislation to allow Medicare drug price negotiation.

Why the emphasis on giving money to politicians? Healthcare spending is supposed to climb during the next decade, and it’s profitable for the players. National health spending surged 9.7% in 2020, rising from $3.8 trillion in spending in 2019 to $4.1 trillion in spending in 2020.

  • Spending growth is projected to drop to less than half of that, 4.2% in 2021, or about $4.3 trillion.
  • The actuaries project 4.6% spending growth in 2022, or about $4.5 trillion.

Spending is expected to grow an average of 5.1% between 2021 and 2030, reaching almost $6.8 trillion. Growth in the Gross Domestic Product is also projected to be 5.1% annually over the same period.

Health spending is going up (big surprise!) in traditional categories like hospitals, prescription drugs and doctors, and clinical services through 2024, while pandemic-related effects like COVID vaccines, testing and treatment, and expanded Medicaid coverage fall off.

Big pharma is just another big business. Wall Street is more important to them than patients, which is why they raise prices every year. I understand that the goal of business is to make money, but at what cost to society when patients can’t afford medications?