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

In the survey we did, when we asked the survey group what was most important to them in this process, the word we got back was "accuracy." Safety, as important as it was, was second. So the more we can do as an industry to honestly share accurate information about the processes by which drugs are discovered, proved, and marketed, the better we are all going to be.

And we have to trust in the American public. Believe me, we can. I have been through it. It's not the end of the world when you are faced with risk/benefit choices. People handle them every day. We need to ensure that we never end up with the European model, where the government decides, "No, Billy. You're not going to get that drug, because we're not going to put it on the formulary. No, you're seventy years old, and you've got prostate cancer. You're just too old." I hope that in America we never get to the point where, when we have that profound moment of decision, the room is crowded with federal bureaucrats.

You were talking about the cost of drugs. Do you think we are looking at price controls in this country?

Hopefully not, if we do a good enough job of helping seniors enroll in Medicare coverage, if the industry does a good enough job in helping the uninsured. There is something critically wrong when the uninsured pay the highest prices for medicine of anyone in the country. We need to deal with that. We need to do something for those who, through no fault of their own, cannot get insured. And we will be working with friends in Congress and the industry to find ways to address that.

If we do all that right, and we make access and affordability one of our main goals, and we begin to see progress, there is no reason why Americans should have to turn to what I consider failed experiments in other countries: government price controls.

I come from a part of the country where they produce a lot of oil and gas. I lived through natural gas price controls. And when you had government-controlled prices on an essential commodity, people stopped producing it for the interstate market. We had a lot of gas in Louisiana for the uncontrolled intrastate market—high prices and a lot of gas. Meanwhile there were shortages all over America. Plants were shut down, and there were concerns about people freezing to death in the dark, because price controls had diminished the incentive to produce.

I think Americans understand the free market system. If you really want something, you had better not go to price controls, because you end up getting less of it, not more.

You say that people understand the market system, and they understand that price controls fail. But I seem to recall a number of our Congressmen voting to allow importation of drugs, which is basically importing another country's price controls. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about the politics of importation.

As long as drugs are not accessible and affordable, people are going to look for other options. As long as insurance coverage is not available to them and drugs are cheaper somewhere else, they are always going to be thinking, "How can I get a cheaper drug?" It's human nature.

So there's pressure on members of the Congress to support a solution like that. It's simple, and they think it will answer a political problem a lot easier than trying to go through the complex business of trying to help the uninsured and doing all the things that you have to do if you want to make the system work. The easiest solution sometimes gets the most support. That's the truth. And you put aside other concerns—for example, safety. We have literally, I think, ignored the safety concern. We thought it was an excuse to stop the imposition of price controls.


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