Can pharma walk the health reform walk?

Want to prove that industry is talking the talk on big-time healthcare reform--but still wants to walk the same old walk? A Wall Street Journal op-ed by Eli Lilly chief John Lechleiter could be Exhibit A. Essentially, Lechleiter contends that private insurance is the one-and-only way to approach healthcare coverage. Government will just get in the way of doctors and patients' choice, which in a roundabout way will stifle pharma innovation. Plus, forget letting the government work to shrink drug costs; same innovation collapse.

Wait a second--didn't the pharma trade group PhRMA just pledge to participate in slashing some $2 trillion in costs out of the healthcare system? And isn't Lilly part of that group? Well, yes. But if you read PhRMA's statement to the end, it's basically saying that the best way to cut healthcare costs is to sell more prescription drugs. Scrip compliance will cut complications, thus costs, the group argues. New drugs that hold off chronic illness such as Alzheimer's can save lots of money in symptom treatment.

Both of these statements are true. And it's also true that Meds account for only 10 percent of healthcare costs now. But if you take public insurance off the table, take cost-effectiveness research off the table, take government scrip-cost control off the table, as Lechleiter appears to be suggesting, then what's left? Unfortunately, this sounds like a classic "not in my backyard" protest that could sink overall reform--if other segments of the business advance their own not-us arguments. And why wouldn't they?

- read the PhRMA statement
- see the op-ed by Lechleiter
- check out the Health Blog post