Roche: Goodbye PhRMA and ABPI, hello BIO

Roche no longer wants to associate with the rest of Big Pharma. The Swiss company is pulling out of the U.S. pharmaceuticals association, PhRMA, and is resigning from PhRMA's opposite number in the U.K., the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. Roche also plans to drop its sponsorship of a pharma management program at Rutgers Business School.

Instead, Roche wants to hang out with the biotech crowd. Now that Roche has wrapped up its acquisition of one of the big Kahunas of biotech, Genentech, the company is putting its money into BIO, the Biotech Industry Organization. "Genentech and Roche believe BIO's purpose is closely aligned with the direction of the new company and, therefore, can represent the company's interest in Washington," a spokeswoman told the Star-Ledger.

Not for lack of trying on PhRMA's part, however. The group dispatched its chairman, AstraZeneca chief David Brennan, to lobby Roche CEO Severin Schwan to stick with the group. No such luck. And in losing Roche, PhRMA not only loses a big chunk of revenue--dues were based on company sales--but a big chunk of clout as well, CEO Billy Tauzin told the Star-Ledger. "They are hugely important," he said.

Roche's resignation from ABPI is a bit more complex; the association had suspended the company for breaching its code of practice on the marketing of weight-loss drug Xenical and patient incentives for users of a cystic fibrosis remedy. Though reinstated several months ago, the company told the Financial Times that it has opted out of ABPI but that it will continue to abide by the group's code of practice. "[O]ur time away from the ABPI has enabled us to reflect upon the nature of this relationship and consideration of mutual needs for the future," the company said in a statement. "We have concluded that this is something we need to review further and for that reason, we have decided not to re-join the ABPI for the time being."

The ABPI isn't taking this lying down: The Financial Times reports that the organization is disputing Roche's right to leave. "The ABPI doesn't want to see any member company walk away," said ABPI President Chris Brinsmead (who also happens to be AstraZeneca's U.K. chief). "A unified front makes sense." Can the British pharma industry self-regulate if one of the biggest companies isn't part of the association? That's the FT's question. And will others follow Roche out?

- read the Star-Ledger article
- find the story from the FT
- see the PharmaGossip post
- get more from PharmiWeb