2009 means new leadership

No doubt, the biggest pharma story of 2009 is set in Washington, D.C. In less than three weeks, a new president takes over, bringing a fresh wave of leadership at Health and Human Services and the FDA. President-elect Obama’s pick for HHS chief--Tom Daschle--signals his intent to tackle healthcare reform in spite of economic distress. And the word on his search for FDA chief indicates that major change could be afoot. Among the contenders have been agency critics and pharma watchdogs willing to shake up the FDA--and the industry.

And then there are the president-elect’s oft-repeated campaign points: that government programs should negotiate drug prices, for instance, which is expected to take a $10 billion to $30 billion chunk out of pharma revenues. Or that DTC advertising should be curtailed, or generic drugs used early and often. You can be sure that we’ll hear talk of drug re-importation as a cost-saving strategy, too.

You can also be sure that pharma won’t just roll over. The industry gave millions to Democratic candidates during this election cycle, and companies won’t let those contributions go to waste. Plus, Big Pharma is pouring cash into new lobbying efforts. And PhRMA, the trade group, has already launched a marketing campaign designed to combat some of the business-unfriendly reforms Daschle and company might propose.

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