Pharma's New Face - Pharmaceutical Executive


Pharma's New Face
PhRMA's new president says his mission is to restore the reputation of national treasures. That's not just a PR goal. It's a recipe for reform.

Pharmaceutical Executive

Besides going out and telling your story, are there some defensive things that you see coming up that make you really nervous?

On the defensive side, there are the genetically modified crops, which are under attack. Most Americans do not realize they are consuming them every day without problem. But there are radical organizations that are not scientific in their approach that are mounting attacks and actually bringing votes, arranging for ballots and referendums in California counties and so forth. So I think we are a little bit on the defensive on that issue. Again, we have to follow the science and explain to the members of Congress and the public at large what this is really all about.

Certainly, the embryonic stem cell issue is highly controversial. That is an evolving issue every day. I just heard something yesterday about stem cells found in bone marrow, I think, and their ability to morph into other kinds of cells. But having carried the therapeutic cloning substitute to the Weldon Bill in the last two Congresses, I am acutely aware of how much disinformation there is about some of these stem cell issues. There are members of Congress who believe that biotech companies want to create embryo farms and that sort of thing, which is quite ridiculous.

Is there a danger that the United States is going to lose out in maintaining its cutting edge position?

Of course. When we have our conference in June, you will see pavilions there from dozens of countries. And they are not there to invite us to come to their beaches. They are there to invite companies to leave America and make their products in Asia and Europe and elsewhere and take jobs away. It is important that America maintain its prestige and its first-rate status in every aspect of biotechnology.

All of a sudden, both of the major advocacy organizations for the pharmaceutical industry are headed by recent former members of Congress. Of course, it has raised a certain amount of controversy—more when Congressman Tauzin was first talked about for PhRMA and less now when it is actually happening. It's clear what the industry gets from the so-called "revolving door." It's clear what you and Congressman Tauzin can get from it. What is the public-interest argument in favor of people going from Congress to organizations like BIO? Why is this a good thing for the public?

You look at someone like Billy Tauzin who has been thirty-seven years in public policy in public office. And you look at Jim Greenwood who has been twenty-seven years in public policy. I don't think you do that unless you are deeply committed to serving your community and the country and ultimately the world. That's why we both did this into our fifties from very young years of our lives.

If you look at our records, I think you would see in both instances very long records of commitment to trying to do just that. That is why I'm here.

You look at Billy Tauzin, and I'm sure you talked about his cancer. He has made some very tough decisions in his life about what medicines to take and what surgeries to undergo. He is deeply committed to the notion of putting patients in the driver's seat.

When I interviewed for this job, and the board of the search committee said they wanted BIO to become a world-class advocacy organization, I said to them, "After twenty-four years of being on the receiving end of that, I can tell you that I will bring to BIO the three secret tools of advocacy." And they all leaned forward and asked, "What are those?" And I said, "The truth, the truth, and the truth." One thing the public gets from us is that we know, from years of experience, that when people came to the Hill, if they couldn't give me the dead honest truth, I never listened to them again. I don't expect anybody on the Hill or in the public to listen to me if I am not truthful with them at all times. So I think those people who are fair give us both time and watch what we do.

You have quite an order ahead of you. Any specific changes in the organization to accomplish all this?

I've just hired Scott Whitaker who is Tommy Thompson's chief of staff over at the Department of Health and Human Services to come on as executive vice president here. So he will be the number two guy here. And what he brings is the experience that comes from managing the second-largest department in the federal government next to defense, obviously the intimate knowledge of the workings of the FDA and CMS and NIH, plus he spent ten years in the Senate as a staffer. So he understands the legislative process. And I think he will be a real asset to our team, both in terms of coordinating our various departments so that they function well and also with our advocacy.

James Greenwood began his career as a social worker in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, after graduating from Dickinson College in 1973. He served in the Pennsylvania Legislature, and was elected to Congress in 1993 from the states Eighth Congressional District. Greenwood specialized in health, environment, and childrens issues. In Congress, he wrote legislation to promote pediatric labeling for pharmaceuticals, reform medical device review and approval, and expand research on traumatic brain injury. He served as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committees Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation. Greenwood left Congress in 2004, and in January 2005 assumed the position of president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).


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