Lobbyists spent a record $8.8 million in Frankfort this year at a time when lawmakers were considering legislation to make some cold and allergy medications available only by prescription.
Financial reports filed with the Legislative Ethics Commission show the Consumer Healthcare Products Association was the biggest single spender, investing more than $486,000. That money was spent on a partially successful push to quash legislation that would have ended over-the-counter sales of medications including Advil Cold & Sinus, Allegra D, Claritin-D, Mucinex-D and Sudafed.
Those are among the products that contain pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in making methamphetamine, an illegal drug that's being widely abused in Kentucky and elsewhere.
The legislation was intended to help curb methamphetamine production. It passed only after lawmakers changed it to allow people to buy up to two packages of the medications each month or up to seven packages each year without a prescription.
People who need more than that would have to get a doctor's approval.
The Legislative Ethics Commission reported Thursday that the Consumer Healthcare Products Association represents a variety of drug makers and distributors, including Bayer Healthcare, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer and Purdue Pharma.
"One thing is certain — more and more businesses and organizations are understanding the importance of having a representative on the scene when the General Assembly is meeting," said John Schaaf, an attorney for the Legislative Ethics Commission.
Lawmakers dealt with a litany of weighty issues that drew input from lobbyists, including legislation to crack down on abuse of prescription painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs. That high-profile measure, which requires all doctors to participate in a prescription tracking program, passed despite opposition.
This year's spending record topped the previous record set in 2010 by some $400,000. In all, 635 lobbyists were registered in Frankfort during this year's legislative session that ran from January into April. Those lobbyists represented 651 organizations and businesses.
Consumer Healthcare Products Association wasn't the only big spender in Frankfort this year. The Kentucky Hospital Association, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and Altria Client Services all spent more than $100,000.
Spending $70,000 or more were AT&T; the Kentucky Medical Association; Kentucky Retail Federation; Kentucky Education Association; Kentucky Association of Healthcare Facilities; Kentucky Bankers Association; and the Kentucky Optometric Association.