Monday, April 19, 2010

The PhRMA Search

So, we just finished telling you (see below) that the search for a new head of the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America is just getting going, and that it is way too early to know who the candidates really are to take over for CEO Billy Tauzin when he leaves at the end of June.

Naturally, we won't let that stop us from telling you who we think the candidates are, might be--or maybe should be. But let's be clear: we are still betting the job goes to someone no one is talking about yet.

Let's start with the names we’ve heard that we expected to hear.

Tom Daschle: Okay, when we included him on our first list, we thought we were kidding. At the time Tauzin resigned, it seemed like the last thing PhRMA would want is to double-down its bet on health care reform. Well, things have changed. Plus, we were there when PhRMA's new chairman, Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler, introduced Daschle during the PhRMA annual meeting, with warm, glowing praise. Then Daschle returned the favor by praising Kindler for a “visionary address,” and telling PhRMA “you could not be in better hands with the leadership you are going to have from this Chairman.” So maybe there is something to it. One thing: if PhRMA wants Daschle and Daschle wants PhRMA, there is no need to wait. We don't think it will happen.

Christopher Dodd: The retiring Connecticut Democratic Senator is a logical fit—after all, Pfizer is one big constituent. But he has to get through a potentially bruising fight over regulatory reform in the financial sector before he steps down at the end of the year. We be he ends up doing something else next.

Evan Bayh: The Indiana Democrat’s resignation at the peak of the health care reform debate immediately put him on the PhRMA long list. A former board member of Eli Lilly, he may have broader appeal to the PhRMA membership than Dodd. And—while he voted for health care reform—he wasn’t one of the key architects and so may be better positioned to push for improvements than Dodd. If he wants the job, he has a good chance to get it.

Then there are the names we heard but didn’t expect:

Ginger Graham: The former Amylin CEO (and ex-Lilly exec) would make an interesting choice—the first female head of PhRMA and an ex-CEO leading CEOs. Her experience guiding Amylin from start-up phase to commercial entity could help PhRMA continue to reach out to emerging commercial businesses to expand its membership base. But will a bunch of Big Pharma CEOs really choose a little pharma CEO as their leader?

Mark McClellan: The only man to run both FDA and CMS seems to come up as an ideal candidate for almost any job you can think of. Heck, we suggested him as a candidate to run Pfizer’s R&D operation a couple years ago. But plenty of folks would love to have him running PhRMA. The thing is, he sure seems happy doing what he’s doing (running the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at Brookings).

Then there are plenty of names we haven’t heard but are worth thinking about:

Arlen Specter: The Pennsylvania Democrat who used to be a Republican plans to be back in the Senate next year. But what if he goes down to defeat? As the man who gave the Democrats their (temporary) 60-vote majority in the Senate, Specter played a key role in making health care reform possible. Would PhRMA reward him—or someone else whose health care reform vote costs them re-election—with a “retirement” job as CEO? It may be far-fetched, but having a figurehead who reminds the Administration of their loyalty to the reform cause wouldn’t be a bad thing during the implementation process in 2011-12. And you can also make a change after the Presidential Election.

Howard Dean: The former Vermont Governor worked with the Biotechnology Industry Organization on health care reform and so frankly is more likely to be the next head of BIO than PhRMA--and he isn't likely to be the next head of BIO. But Dean's best known as a long-shot presidential candidate anyway, so why not? More importantly, we promised to tell you more about what he said at the DTC National conference in DC earlier this year. In a nutshell, he explained that pharmaceuticals have reduced health care costs over the past 30 years and (in our words, not his) are part of the solution, not the problem, in the health care system.

Any GOP Politician: Fresh off the reform victory, no one is thinking about a big name Republican—but that will change faster than you can say “Contract With America” if the Republicans sweep the Congressional elections in November.

Linda Suydam: When Tauzin resigned, we flagged AHIP’s Karen Ignagni as an interesting possible successor, bringing association management experience and the glow of victory in the health care reform debate. Oops on that last part. Ignagni is now the loser in reform, we suppose—but the Consumer Health Product Association’s Suydam is available. Okay, she plans to return to the Southwest when she retires at the end of the year, but maybe she would reconsider. In addition to her association management experience, she also is a former FDA official—useful bona fides for PhRMA as it heads into the critical PDUFA reauthorization cycle.

Tony Principi: The head of government affairs for Pfizer was described by his boss, Jeff Kindler, as "one of the smartest guys" in Washington during the PhRMA annual meeting. But we put him on the list because of his past experience in military and veterans' issues. You see, the one thing about the final health care reform law that PhRMA doesn't like is the independent board to recommend spending cuts in Medicare (IPAB). The board is modeled on base closing commissions--and it so happens that Prinicipi was the chair of the last base closing commission before joining Pfizer.

And last but not least:

Chip Davis: Okay, so we already explained why he is purely a temporary head of the association. But no one expected Bud Selig to be anything more than temporary commissioner of baseball. If the search for a permanent successor drags on and Davis is able to keep the association staff focused on day-to-day execution, maybe he ends up as the CEO after all. PhRMA could do worse.

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