Pfizer won’t lack resources in lobbying for $160 billion Allergan deal
• Nov 24, 2015
In politics, 2015 may be remembered as the year of Trump and Carson, Clinton and Sanders. In the business world, especially in the health care industry, it may be remembered as the year of the merger.
But many politicians aren’t at all happy about the latest such effort: New York-based Pfizer‘s plan, announced Monday, to join forces with Allergan in a mammoth $160 billion deal.
What’s making them queasy: Allergan, headquartered in Dublin, will actually acquire the larger Pfizer, allowing Pfizer – as the combined company will be called – to pay much lower taxes while changing little about how it operates in the United States. Pfizer’s effective U.S. tax rate is currently about 25 percent. After the merger, it would plummet to about 17 or 18 percent, with the money going to the Republic of Ireland. One of the largest drugmakers worldwide with household-name products like Viagra and Lipitor, Pfizer tried to implement a similar strategy, known as an inversion, last year by taking over London-based AstraZeneca, but the companies failed to strike a deal.
Pfizer seems unlikely to bow to grumbling lawmakers – and is sure to rev up its lobbying machine as lawmakers and regulators scrutinize the megadeal, which would create the biggest drug producer in the world if successful.
There’s little dispute that Pfizer packs a lot of lobbying muscle. Take its approach to the Affordable Care Act. During 2009, when the debate over passing Obamacare was at a fever pitch, Pfizer spent $25.8 million lobbying Congress and federal agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services, where the plan was partially assembled. Some of the issues at stake: Whether Medicare should have the power to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, and whether the United States should allow the re-importation of (often cheaper) drugs from Canada and Europe. Supporters of the proposals argued that consumers would benefit from them. But Pfizer and other major drugmakers worked to nix both – and succeeded.
Since the height of its lobbying outlays in 2009, Pfizer’s annual spending has hovered between about $9.5 million and $13.4 million. During the first nine months of 2015 alone, the company had 70 lobbyists on its payroll, who focused mostly on issues related to health and taxes. Unsurprisingly, Pfizer dedicated lobbying resources to opposing the Stop Corporate Inversions Act of 2014.
Pfizer joined a chorus of pharmaceutical companies this year in lobbying on the 21st Century Cures Act, which would expedite the Food and Drug Administration’s drug approval process. It also weighed in on the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, known as the “permanent doc fix.” In addition, the company tried to influence separate but related House and Senate bills to overhaul the patent litigation process.