Wednesday, December 16, 2009

PhRMA Wins Reimportation Battle; Can it Win the PR War

The brand name pharmaceutical industry staved off an effort to attach a reimportation provision to the Senate health care reform bill last night. If anyone doubted how much the trade association PhRMA accomplished by working with the White House on reform instead of fighting, let's remove all doubt.

Here, once again, is an Obama campaign video (simply called "Billy") from last year:

Does anyone really doubt that industry could be facing a much bigger bite from health care reform if it didn't cooperate early? (This is why we nominated PhRMA's deal with the White House--which we like to call "dollars for donuts"--for Deals of the Year.)

The only problem with the vote is how bad it all looks. And we think that's a bigger problem for PhRMA than for the White House.

Sure, Obama's taking plenty of hits for flip-flopping on reimportation. (He supported it on the campaign trial, but the White House worked with PhRMA to kill it in the Senate.) But that PR hit has an upside: it reinforces to other industries that when this White House makes a deal it sticks to it. (Is that why the CEOs of several major banks now say they will work directly with the Administration on regulatory reform for their sector?)

But there is no upside here for pharma companies. The pharmaceutical industry has proven that it can defeat reimportation yet again. What the industry needs to do, though, is get to the point where no one seriously thinks reimportation is a useful public policy option in the first place.

We think this column in today's Washington Post should be required reading for everyone in the brand name industry. There is almost nothing in the article that won't make brand executives angry. But it is a fair reflection of how the political chattering classes view this issue: evil Big Pharma's lobbying clout trumped a common sense proposal to help the average Joe.

If industry can't change that perception, its victory in health care reform may be short-lived.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

PhRMA has taken a lead role in improving medication adherence and appropriate medication use. More customers + healthier patients = more profit + healthier image.,0,1020150.story