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As a new study finds that pharma has become Washington's largest lobby in terms of dollars spent in campaign contributions, a high-stakes battle is looming in the heat of election season over what those dollars can buy—defeat of new advertising curbs, blockage of drug imports from Canada and Mexico, stronger patent protections and more.

Much will depend on whether Barack Obama wins the White House with larger Democratic majorities on Capitol Hill. History shows that voters prefer divided control of the federal government, only rarely giving the White House and both houses of Congress to the same party.

I'm betting that this will be one of those rare occasions, and the drug industry seems to be preparing for that. The independent, non-partisan journalism group Center for Public Integrity, in a report titled Pushing Prescriptions, found not only that the industry is Washington's biggest lobby with $168 million spent in 2007, up 32% in a single year, but that contributions to Democrats are eclipsing those to Republicans.

That's good sense. Even if McCain takes the White House, the Democrats are certain to make gains on Capitol Hill, where majority views of the industry aren't friendly. According to the report, the top pharma lobby spenders (in millions) in 2007 were PhRMA, $22.7; Amgen, $16.3; Pfizer, $13.8; Roche, $9; Sanofi-Aventis, $8.4; GlaxoSmithKline, $8.2; Johnson & Johnson, $7.7; BIO, $7.2; Novartis, $6.6; Merck, $6.6; Bristol-Myers Squibb, $6; Abbott, $4.6; Lilly, $4.3; Boehringer Ingelheim, $4.1; AstraZeneca, $4.1; Bayer, $4.1; Genzyme, $2.7; Wyeth, $2.5; Teva, $2.3; and Baxter, $2.2. After eight drug industry-assisted Republican power years to harden the Democrats' attitudes, warming up Washington's new bosses won't be easy. But it will be essential.

Dickinson is editor of Dickinson's FDA Webview (
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