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High prices, poor access: What is Big Pharma fighting for in Brussels?

Big Pharma's lobby machine ground into top gear to defend its privileges, doing its best to remove or weaken regulatory measures. A close relationship with the Commission –which fails to take undue industry influence seriously– has played a key role, as has the lobbying firepower of Big Pharma. The top ten biggest spending companies, for example, have increased their lobby budget by €2 million since 2015, and Big Pharma's main lobby group EFPIA (European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations) sits on eight of the Commission’s advisory groups. Big Pharma has also rolled out a PR offensive harnessing the powerful emotions around illness, designed to deflect criticism and narrow the scope for debate. Thanks to this lobbying arsenal, the industry has succeeded in influencing the review into pharma incentives and rewards (such as intellectual property rules), as well as a change to a type of patent extension called an SPC (supplementary protection certificate) which allows companies to extend the period of monopoly pricing. It has also affected a proposal for EU collaboration to assess how effective new medicines and health technologies are relative to existing ones, something which helps member states negotiate prices. Drug companies promote the use of ‘new’ drugs because they still have patent protection, and are therefore more expensive, over old ones that don't, even if the new product is not an improvement in medical terms.