John Castellani: Industry's Level Bet on a Dizzying Future - Pharmaceutical Executive

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John Castellani: Industry's Level Bet on a Dizzying Future
Will reinforced evidence and messaging continue to deliver results in a changing healthcare marketplace? Can PhRMA's own business model synch with industry's? Pharm Exec takes a closer look at PhRMA's new leadership


Pharmaceutical Executive


Delivering the Message

WL: Your predecessor, Billy Tauzin, on assuming the post of PhRMA President, noted the following as his signature statement: "The era of no comment is over." What is your carve-in-stone communication to the public?

JC: "PhRMA—ready to partner." This industry exists to advance the future of medicine and improve patient health through active participation in many different healthcare policies. The other part of the message is economic—yes, we save lives. We also grow GDP.

WL: How do you accomplish that?

JC: It is primarily one of evidencing expertise. To demonstrate to payers, governments, and other stakeholders that we know the answers to the most challenging questions, such as how to transform basic science into commercial medicines that treat and cure real diseases, or how to build innovative systems and processes that guarantee the best healthcare for patients. It means PhRMA must be regarded as an expert—a thought leader—rather than a combatant in the political arena.

It goes without saying this is a significant challenge because sheer political clout does count. It is troubling that when President Obama visited Pennsylvania after the January State of the Union address to showcase his commitment to innovation, the sector he chose to celebrate was alternative energy, not our industry, which dominates the state's base in high technology. Why is that? Biopharmaceuticals is an industry that everyone wants. We've got to make sure as a society that we keep it strong.

WL: The industry today is far more competitive and one can point to a divergence of business interests in key areas—including support for generic medicines or new regulatory pathways for emerging technologies like biosimilars. How is PhRMA seeking to bridge these differences to set the clear priorities you claim are vital to prevail in Washington?

JC: Such differences are exaggerated. All of our members agree about the role of generic medicines in the healthcare system; innovation remains the critical driver because of the simple truth that all generics in use today were once a patented medicine. Although we have some member companies with active generics businesses, all of them are active in proprietary research and are working to discover new drugs. No PhRMA member is antagonistic to our basic mission around innovation, especially when we cast that concept in a broader framework—there are many new ways of defining innovation beyond producing a pill.

WL: What about forging a common position on sensitive commercial issues such as the application of codes of conduct on promotion and marketing?

JC: We reviewed this topic at the last meeting of the Dolder group of industry CEOs. Our common position—to be pursued by all national and regional trade associations, including PhRMA—is for our members to observe the highest standard of compliance, on a worldwide basis. We also set a fine line between what PhRMA does on the public policy front and the actions individual companies take in deciding when, where, and how to compete. Our task is to shape the broad environment in which this competition takes place; to create the level playing field that gives everyone a fair start. The other aspects are not part of our purview and I am very explicit and insistent that our members understand this.


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