Kindler predicts reform by year's end

Pfizer chief Jeff Kindler is adding his voice to the chorus promising healtlhcare reform by year's end. Fresh off his record-setting merger with Wyeth, Kindler told the Financial Times that he's expecting reform to get the thumbs-up in Congress before the new year. Perhaps more surprising, he praised the Senate's latest reform bill, despite the fact that it stands to place a bigger burden on pharma.

Not surprising at all, however, was his staunch opposition to price controls and to changes in Medicare Part D. For "price controls," read price negotiation on Medicare drugs, which happens to be included in the House's current version of reform. And for "changes to Part D," read rebates on drugs for so-called dual eligibles, the seniors whose drugs once were paid for by Medicaid, but now fall under Medicare. A measure that would mandate Medicaid-style rebates for the dual-eligibles' drugs is also part of the House's current bill.

No wonder, then, that Kindler has thrown his weight behind the Senate bill. He's no dummy; the Senate version may not be exactly what pharma ordered, but it's certainly more industry-friendly than the House version. As we reported last week, the House bill could cost drugmakers as much as twice the $80 billion they pledged to cut.

So, look for drugmakers to continue to line up on the Senate side--and for pharma lobbyists to continue to twist arms in both houses of Congress. If enough heavyweights like Kindler forecast the triumph of reform, surely it will happen, no?

- read the FT story