Pharma means the pharmaceutical industry, especially the major companies. Critics who do not like them call them Big Pharma. The term comes from the industry trade body, supported by companies, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). Profits are very high but unstable , since it takes a decade and a billion dollars to bring a new drug to market, and many promising drugs fail to make it. Once on the market patents protect it for 17 years. In recent years the international industry has been consolidated as very large companies buy out large companies.
In 1994 Pharma played a central role in defeating the Clinton health care package. In 2009, however, Big Pharma cut a deal with the Democrats, promising to cut drug costs by $80 billion over the next decade, and to support the Senate bill; in return they were promised they would not be hit by price controls and foreign drugs would not be allowed in.