PhRMA, navigating turbulence, taps Gilead CEO to helm board of directors

Following the exodus of several prominent drugmakers and some surprising drug pricing setbacks in Washington, the influential industry lobbying group PhRMA has been busy navigating new challenges in recent years.

But that hasn’t kept the trade organization from attracting major talent as it shakes up its star-studded board of directors.

Wednesday, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) revealed that Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O’Day has donned the mantle as chair of the board, replacing Novartis chief Vas Narasimhan, who held the position for much of 2023.

Albert Bourla, Ph.D., CEO of Pfizer, has become board chair-elect, while Sanofi helmsman Paul Hudson will serve as PhRMA’s new treasurer.

In his new position at the top of PhRMA’s board, O’Day will strive to “protect the innovation ecosystem” and make sure medicines are “affordable for everyone,” he said in a statement.

Incoming treasurer Hudson echoed that sentiment. In a statement, the Sanofi chief said that “misaligned incentives” in the healthcare system often make drugs too expensive. 

The board changes come at an important time for the pharma industry, which has been battling certain provisions outlined in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) ever since the law was passed in 2022.

PhRMA has found itself on the front lines of that fight, suffering a rare setback last week when its lawsuit challenging the legality of Medicare price negotiations was tossed by a federal judge in Texas. 

“We are disappointed with the court’s decision, which does not address the merits of our lawsuit and we are weighing our next legal steps,” PhRMA spokesperson Nicole Longo told Fierce Pharma at the time.

More broadly, PhRMA’s lobbying efforts weren’t enough to stop the passage of the IRA in the summer of 2022. The setback was seen by many as a sign of the pharma industry’s waning influence over U.S. policymakers.  

Meanwhile, several of PhRMA’s members have recently gone AWOL, beginning with AbbVie, which left the organization in December 2022. The company also withdrew from the Biotechnology Innovation Organization and the Business Roundtable.

While it wasn’t immediately clear why AbbVie left, its departure marked the start of a trend.

Last February, Teva became the second prominent drugmaker to renounce its membership.

“We annually review effectiveness and value of engagements, consultants and memberships to ensure our investments are properly seated,” a Teva spokesperson explained at the time, noting Teva would continue to remain engaged in D.C. and around the world on issues pertinent to the industry.

AstraZeneca also bowed out of PhRMA last year, with a company spokesperson telling Fierce Pharma that the British drugmaker wanted to make sure its involvement was the most “productive and effective use” of its resources given its “significant investment” in the trade group.