Big Pharma is jockeying for position in Washington. As healthcare reform promises to change the market landscape, and comparative-effectiveness research threatens to subject drugs (and their cost) to new scrutiny, companies are anteing up on lobbyists and carefully crafting executive statements.
Billions are at stake, of course; if health reform gives drugmakers millions of newly insured patients, the companies could reap millions more prescriptions, particularly for the sorts of expensive drugs for chronic conditions that uninsured folks tend to forego. But if comparative effectiveness research shows that the expensive treatments are not that much better than the cheaper ones, branded drugmakers could end up capturing fewer dollars.
Drugmakers are teaming up with local governments and chambers of commerce--which are grateful for the jobs and local spending the companies offer--to push their case. While they're careful to support healthcare reform on the whole, they're targeting some provisions that could hurt their bottom lines, emphasizing--not surprisingly--the ways a loss of revenue might cut into innovation. "Neither Lilly nor our industry is asking the government for any bailouts to keep our research going," CEO John Lechleiter (photo) has said (as quoted in BNet Pharma). "Our concern is to avoid government actions that could destroy the ability to bring the next generation of medicines forward."
Drug companies "are concerned that there is a potential to come down with pronouncements about what should and shouldn't be covered," Jane Horvath, senior director for public policy at Merck, told Bloomberg. And in the midst of a recession, pharma doesn't want to take any risks, Princeton professor Julian Zelizer said, "so they are bringing out the biggest lobbyists in the business."