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

On the other hand, when you look forward to the things that are coming up, is it going to be much better? We won't have the Presidential election, but the rest of the jockeying for power is still going to be there. Renewal of PDUFA [Prescription Drug User Fee Act] is coming up. That should be a no-brainer. But it's going to be ugly, isn't it?

To some extent, yes. A few years ago, when the Democratic party held the House majority in such numbers that they never felt threatened, there was a calmness about the place. You don't see that going on today, because the margins are close, and each side thinks if they can put the other on the right kind of defensive position, they can take the House back. The other side sees [any opening] as a way of putting the other side on the defensive. I think they are going to make as much hay as they can out of that. You can't do a whole lot about that.

What I can do is help position this industry in a more favorable light with the public. When people have a better respect and appreciation for you, they give you a little more room. You should feel more tolerance in the way you operate and what you do. I have to somehow place pharma squarely on the side of patients, to the point where patients and caregivers are going to be upset if people try to make partisan politics around the issues.

That's one obvious tactical way of dealing with it. The other is repairing broken alliances. When I got here, after so many wars, there were alliances that were not as solid as they should be—with physicians, for example. Physicians in this country generally understand and are supportive of efforts to develop drugs for them. That's an important feeling. We have to put ourselves squarely on the side of physicians again.

We will be doing a lot of that, rebuilding our alliances with the health plans of America, the Blues, and all of those who try to provide insurance for Americans. We will be working much more closely with the Generic Pharmaceutical Association. We understand the generics in the marketplace help stabilize pricing. And that's good for all of us—not only for the industry but for patients.

Here is a simple remedy, not difficult to understand, but difficult sometimes in application: Just do the right thing. Whenever you get down to that place where you are going to make a decision, and it's clearly a choice between doing the right thing and doing something you may have been doing wrong, do the right thing! And you won't have to have a PR campaign to convince people you are okay.

The trouble is that pharmaceutical products have dangers and side effects that are difficult to understand, and the drug development process seems intrinsically difficult for people to understand. We look in the newspapers recently, and people are horrified to learn that there's a scientist at FDA who didn't want to approve certain drugs.

It is absolutely flabbergasting to believe that we accept risks/benefits in every phase of our lives except drugs. Take medical surgery. If the doctor told you today that you need bypass surgery you wouldn't hesitate to say, "Doc, if that's what I need, let's go do it." One of my best buddies had bypass surgery here in Washington. The guy to the right of him and the guy to the left of him both died in the recovery room. There is a lot of risk to open-heart surgery. But I don't hear anybody saying we need to stop doing it.


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