Pharma can gain and lose from D.C. power shift

As healthcare and pharma experts sift through the aftermath of Tuesday's election, they're finding some promising possibilities--and recognizing that the Washington power shift will present some new challenges, too.

On the positive side: Drugmakers have the chance, as Eli Lilly chief John Lechleiter tells the Wall Street Journal, of persuading the GOP-led House to toss out the Medicare-payment advisory board, which is roundly decried in pharma circles. Then there's the chance to re-up on PDUFA, the user-fee system that allows pharma to fork over money for faster review of new-drug apps.

Meanwhile, the Republican's takeover of the house will shift committee-chair assignments, putting some industry-friendly folks in spots previously occupied by critics. For instance, Rep. Henry Waxman, who has been leading the Committee on Commerce, could be replaced by Rep. Fred Upton (Michigan), Cliff Stearns (Florida), or Joe Barton (Texas), Medical Marketing & Media reports. Meanwhile, Sen. Charles Grassley, who's been a fly in pharma's ointment as the top Republican on the Finance Committee, is moving to Judiciary, leaving the friendlier Sen. Orrin Hatch as his likely successor.

Challenges? Lawmakers might bring up a cost-saving move that would dig into drugmakers' profits--the oft-threatened repeal of pharma's tax deduction for marketing expenses. That idea gained some traction during the healthcare-reform debate, but finally fell by the wayside; some Washington observers think the idea might resurface. And what about some other Republican-backed ideas--such as drug re-importation--that pharma hates? No word on those yet, but in this political environment, that's no guarantee.

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