PhRMA still backs healthcare reform

Some lawmakers may be ready to throw healthcare reform under the bus, but the drug industry is still behind the overhaul. David Brennan, AstraZeneca CEO and chairman of PhRMA this year, says that the group hasn't pulled its support for the Senate reform bill. But he acknowledged that the whole endeavor is "up in the air a bit," the Wall Street Journal reports, now that a Republican has won Sen. Ted Kennedy's old Senate seat.

Brennan made the remarks during AstraZeneca's fourth-quarter earnings call, adding that "it's difficult to say" whether PhRMA's $80 billion cost-cutting deal with the Senate and White House would survive. That deal caused some consternation in the House, which, before the Massachusetts election, had been pledging to ask pharma for at least $10 billion more in cuts.

PhRMA's support has been a key part of healthcare reform almost from the start. The drug industry was first to agree to specific cost cuts, and the lobbying group plowed millions into advertising in support of reform. In return, PhRMA got assurances that the industry's most-hated healthcare proposals--such as drug reimportation and Medicare price negotiation--would be left out of the reform package.

Critics didn't like that tit-for-tat arrangement, but the White House and PhRMA have stood by it. We'll have to wait and see what happens with healthcare reform Plan B.

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