PhRMA spent more than $68.5 million on advertising campaigns last year, a massive increase from its spending in 2016.
The group has not traditionally devoted a large share of its resources to advertising. In 2016, PhRMA only spent $6.9 million on advertising, according to its 990 forms, and its outlays were even lower in previous years.
Not surprisingly, PhRMA’s two advertising and communications firms benefited. Young & Rubicam, which handles PhRMA’s creative and paid advertising, received more than $9.3 million. Porter Novelli, which oversees strategic messaging and campaigns, received $7.5 million, according to the group’s 2017 990 form.
“In 2017, our industry faced a number of challenging issues with significant ramifications for the future of biopharmaceutical innovation,” PhRMA deputy VP of public affairs Holly Campbell said in an emailed statement. “PhRMA used its enhanced resources to advance market-based public policies that improve patient affordability while opposing harmful proposals that threaten patient access to treatment and hinder the development of new medicines.”
All this spending went into a few wide-ranging campaigns. Go Boldly was the consumer-facing industry reputation effort, while Let’s Talk About Cost was designed to educate policymakers and the general public about drug prices.
Go Boldly launched in January 2017. It was meant to highlight the innovative research done by pharma companies as they develop medicines. The campaign included a TV spot alongside digital and social efforts. PhRMA has released several new ads for the campaign since it began.
In February 2017, as general interest in drug pricing continued to rise, the group took Let’s Talk About Cost, to the public. The campaign included an interactive website and online, radio, and print ads. The group also launched Share the Savings in April, focusing on educating the public about rebates along the drug supply chain.
Not surprisingly, PhRMA’s lobbying spending also shot up in 2017 – to more than $128 million from $56 million in 2016, according to the tax documents. The group has been fighting tougher regulations on drug prices and rebates since President Trump took office last year.
“We believe it is critical to engage with stakeholders across the health care system to hear their perspectives and priorities,” Campbell said in the emailed statement. “PhRMA works with many organizations with which we have both agreements and disagreements on public policy issues, and believe this dialogue is essential to advancing solutions that are in the best interest of patients.”
PhRMA represents many of the largest pharma companies in the U.S. Its overall revenue in 2017 was more than $455 million, nearly twice its 2016 revenue.