When we got our “exclusive” invitation to cover President Bush discussing his legacy in domestic policy from the American Enterprise Institute, we were flattered that the White House has finally recognized the importance of the IN VIVO Blog in the world. Sam Donaldson, Ted Koppel and Wolf Blitzer—who cares what they think. Its about time they started courting the real thought leaders in Washington.
Sure, our skeptical colleagues in the Fourth Estate may have suggested alternative theories. Like: “It’s tough getting any press to cover a lame duck President, especially one this unpopular.” Or “Everyone who matters is in Chicago for the Obama press conference.” Or “I knew FDC-Windhover’s strict no-shoe-tossing policy would pay off.” Or “Is he still President?”
But we weren’t about to let envious colleagues stop us from answering the call of our President. So we set off to the Mayflower hotel downtown, allowed a very polite Secret Service agent to pat us down while a German Shepherd sniffed our laptop bag (thank goodness it wasn’t the other way around!) and dutifully took our seats to hear what lessons the President has learned that would be of interest to our loyal biopharma readers.
After all—all kidding aside—President Bush’s legacy includes signing the two most important laws affecting the pharmaceutical industry in a generation: The FDA Amendments Act of 2007 and the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003.
Not surprisingly, Bush didn’t say a word about the more recent bill. FDAAA was never embraced by the administration, since it was ultimately packaged by Congress as a rebuke to the management of FDA under Bush. But it signals nothing less than a new era in drug regulation, and that alone will ensure that the Bush legacy matters for years to come.
The President did discuss the Medicare law, and especially the Part D prescription drug benefit that was its centerpiece. Bush’s reflections on the legislative debate and its ultimate outcome underscore why many in the biopharma sector will miss him when he’s gone—and why even some who won’t may ultimately owe him a huge debt of gratitude during the upcoming healthcare debate.
Bush explicitly declined to offer advice or policy prescriptions for the incoming administration, joking that his appearance was nothing more than “reflections by a guy who is headed out of town.”
But his analysis of the key lessons of Part D—as an alternative to price controls, as an endorsement of market-based health care, as proof of the power of competition, choice and consumerism in health care—has obvious resonance for the upcoming health care reform debate. (You can read more about Bush’s thoughts on Part D in “The Pink Sheet” DAILY, and on how Part D may play in the health care reform debate in an upcoming issue of The RPM Report.)
There were plenty of other things Bush said that resonate as well, things that weren’t explicitly relevant to biopharma companies—but easily could have been.
“No matter how tough the issue might look, if we require a solution, go after it. The job of the President is to tackle the problem.” (On immigration reform, not health care reform…)
“These aren’t normal circumstances. That’s the problem.” (On the financial bailout, not biotech financing...)
“It is going to be harder to attract good people to government service if their
integrity is challenged at every level.” (On judicial nominees, not FDA Commissioner Andy von Eschenbach....)
“Technology will help change our habits.” (On hybrid cars, not personalized medicine....)
“Part of the problem is…that the regulatory scheme is such that people would risk a lot of capital and then have to seek permission for final approval late in the process
and would find themselves tied up.” (On nuclear power plants, not drug approvals…)