Clinton: Keep pharma "healthy enough"

Until now, the words "healthcare reform" were inextricably linked in Americans' minds with only one surname: Clinton. Despite the 42nd president's failure to enact his (and his wife's) reform agenda, he's still one of the go-to folks when it comes to assessing healthcare and its possible overhaul. So it's no surprise that, in an interview with CNN last night (reported by In Vivo), he got the chance to speak reform.

His views on pharma? That America should be proud of its drugmakers. "They've done a good job for America. They've saved countless lives" Clinton told Sanjay Gupta. But--and there is a major but--"we just can't go on subsidizing" pharma R&D through prices that are immensely higher for U.S. drugs than for meds in countries like Canada and Europe, where per capita incomes are just as high, but drugs are sold at a fraction of the price.

Making pharma out to be the greedy bad guy isn't right, Clinton said. After all, we've had a tacit agreement to subsidize R&D for years. But the U.S. and Big Pharma have to come to a new agreement that doesn't require U.S. taxpayers to fork over higher prices than the rest of the world does.

One element: patent reform. "[A] lot of new drugs are not coming because we haven't reexamined how the patent process and the research process are working together, or not working," the former president said. Another, scarier recommendation: lower margins. Pharma earned "something like 18 percent" for most of the '90s and part of the '00s, Clinton said. "Wal-Mart is what, 5 or 6 percent?"

- check out the In Vivo post 
- see the CNN story and video