As Congress battles over healthcare, Johnson & Johnson CEO says real reform will take time—and cooperation

Alex Gorsky
Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky said healthcare overhaul could take 10 to 20 years to work out, even as Republicans in Congress hope to have it done in a matter of weeks.

While Republican senators work feverishly on a healthcare bill, one prominent pharma CEO says overhauling the system won't take a few weeks of work. Think years, even decades—and he'd like Democrats to be at the table, too.

“I still think we have got a lot of slicing and dicing to do,” Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky told Bloomberg in an interview, adding that “likely for the next 10 or 20 years, this is something that we are going to be working on because it’s so important.”

The J&J helmsman believes U.S. lawmakers face a great challenge in providing efficient healthcare as Americans get older, while continuing to reward innovation and avoid compromising quality of care.

J&J is hoping for a “bipartisan approach” to address the problem, Gorsky added during the interview.

RELATED: Pfizer CEO Read: Healthcare overhaul needs to 'get the incentives right'

His statements came amid Republican senators' frantic push to deliver a bill to President Donald Trump’s desk and a day before the lawmakers delayed their healthcare vote until after the Fourth of July holiday. The Republicans are certainly not without critics, who have said, among other things, that the pace and process of the Obamacare "repeal-and-replace" effort is far from ideal.

For his part, Pfizer CEO Ian Read told press in Washington, D.C., back in March that a potential healthcare overhaul needs to “get the incentives right.” For example, Read said, risks and rewards in healthcare could be lodged with providers such as hospitals rather than with payers, because patients relocate less often—and thus change hospitals—than they change insurance plans.

One current issue with healthcare in the U.S. is that insurance companies are shifting pharma costs to patients, Read said during the discussion. A Pfizer representative declined to comment Wednesday on the ongoing healthcare reform process.

RELATED: Trump administration's proposal to lower prices might just raise them, critics say

On Wednesday, a Novartis spokesperson said that company encourages U.S. leadership to "ensure that any replacement to the Affordable Care Act allows patients access to affordable healthcare coverage, enhances the competitive marketplace and fosters the continued development of innovative medicines and products."

As Congress has its hands full battling over healthcare reform, with Republicans monopolizing the process, other proposals to address drug pricing through Medicare negotiation and importation aren’t getting much traction.

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration is prepping its own executive order on pricing, with an early draft focusing on value-based deals and protecting pharma’s IP rights abroad. Critics said the latter measure could actually raise drug prices.

The discussions are ongoing and the proposals could change, however.

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Still, some have blasted the planned executive order as a reversal from Trump’s previous statements that pharma is “getting away with murder” and that he’d force more competitive “bidding” to drive down costs. Public Citizen’s access to medicines director Peter Maybarduk said the draft order demonstrates that “Big Pharma has captured” the administration.

Performance-based pricing is one strategy that has garnered wide support as drug costs grow. Several drugmakers have been exploring the strategy as payers get tougher on new launches.