WASHINGTON - August 30 - Members of Congress and their aides accepted more than $600,000 in free travel from pharmaceutical interests and their allies during a 5½-year period in which drug company profits climbed, in part due to federal legislation favorable to the industry, according to a new study by the Center for Public Integrity.
The Center's study looked at trips that ranged from one day to several days long taken from January 2000 to June 2005. It uncovered a total of 325 trips taken by lawmakers and staffers, with an average cost of nearly $1,900 per trip.
Many of these trips were approved by lawmakers who had personal interests in the pharmaceutical industry. Most of these legislatures also voted in favor of the 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug Act, which led to profits for the industry.
Examples of influence from pharmaceutical interests include:
- The most influential lobbying group in the drug industry, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), sponsored 45 trips worth at least $92,000.
- Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed), a trade group representing medical device manufacturers but which counts several major pharmaceutical companies among their members, sponsored 58 trips, worth about $165,000.
- Former Sen. John Breaux participated in the negotiations in which the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill was drafted. He and his staff took 15 trips costing in excess of $30,000. Breaux's ties to the drug industry continued even after he left Congress.
The "Power Trips" database of 25,000 public documents detailing nearly 23,000 privately funded trips can be accessed at www.publicintegrity.org/powertrips/search.aspx.