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

You are right that pharma has a lot of baggage right now, because they are big, because any time anyone is big and successful they have detractors. And employers, both private and public payers, are trying like mad to hold down costs. That's an issue that because the pharmaceutical industry is much more mature than the biotechnology industry, it's an issue that they have confronted before. But it certainly is one they are confronting more and more.

As you said earlier, very few of your members actually have products on the market. Do their interests in these issues, such as pricing and safety, do they tend to go together or do they tend to diverge? Do you have one organization or do you have two that you have to keep together?

Of course for our members without products, what they are most interested in receiving from BIO is help with capital. They gravitate to BIO to see if they can participate in either partnering meetings or venture capital meetings so that they can have access to resources. They are primarily focused on developing their products, getting their products into trial, and getting their products approved. They are not thinking much about that phase at the reimbursement levels.

But I think, as I said earlier, when they do think about it and they have the time and luxury to think about that, of course they know that if public policy and private sector insurance carriers make decisions that make it very rough to succeed, then it is going to hurt them, and it's just a matter of time. That doesn't impact them only when they get to the place where they have products on the shelves for sale. It can very well hurt them now when it comes time to attract investors. So I think those who are thinking over the horizon understand that they are all in the same boat.

When you were on the Hill, you saw a lot of pharma companies and biotech people come up, seeking to press their positions. Do you have some advice for companies regarding what they might do more effectively?

I would say this: In the six months between the time that I announced I was withdrawing my candidacy and leaving the Congress and when I arrived here, as you might imagine, I had scores and scores of my colleagues coming up to me on the floor during votes or walking the halls saying, "Oh. You're leaving the Congress. We are going to miss you, Jim. Where are you going?" I would say, "I am going to be the president of BIO." Somewhat to my surprise and dismay, that drew a lot of blank stares.

It made me realize that members of the Congress, unless they are deeply involved in these biotech issues, do not necessarily know what BIO is. Second, when I would say that it is the trade association for biotechnology, the most common response was "Oh, stem cells." So I realized that was the extent that members even know what biotechnology really is; that is what they think of. Of course, only a very small percentage of our companies are engaged in stem cell research.

We have a big selling job to do and an educational job to do on the Hill. I think that's going to be some challenge. But I think it's going to be a lot of fun and a terrific opportunity, because when you tell the biotechnology story in Technicolor, if you will, it is such an astounding story. It is profound to talk about the extent to which we have been able to look inside our bodies, examine our own DNA, sequence the genome, and apply that in a revolutionary change in the way we do healthcare—and in the way we grow crops and feed hundreds of millions of mouths, and the opportunities to change the equation with regard to our energy demands to biofuels, and what biotechnology has to offer in terms of protecting us from bioterrorism.

That is a whale of a story. I think it's a fresh story. It's an exciting story. And it's all about the future. So I think we are going to have a good time in the course of this Congress, telling that story on the Hill. I think the more we tell that story in exciting ways, not just with another sheaf of paper, I think the better off we will be.


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