Memos show PhRMA, Pfizer led Big Pharma support for healthcare bill

The cat is out of the bag so to speak with the disclosure of memos today detailing the level of drug industry support for passage of President Obama's prized healthcare reform.

It was never a secret that Big Pharma came on board to support the legislation, but memos released today by a Republican committee show that its key trade association PhRMA, led by Pfizer ($PFE), elicited industry support and agreed to pay for advertising campaigns to boost its chances of passage. In return, the administration agreed to stand in the way of provisions the industry didn't like, Bloomberg reports. The memos show that drugmakers were most concerned about price controls from Medicare and the consumers getting access to cheaper drugs in other countries. It says the memos also indicate that then-Pfizer CEO Jeffrey Kindler and his crew got other drug execs to fall in line.

One particular memo makes the industry's support pretty clear. "As part of our agreement, PhRMA needs to undertake a very significant public campaign in order to support policies of mutual interest to the industry and the Administration," the July 14, 2009, PhRMA memo says. "We have included a significant amount for advertising to express appreciation for lawmakers' positions on health care reform issues." Another email from a PhRMA lobbyist says the administration agreed to block a proposal by congressional Democrats to allow patients to buy cheaper drugs from outside the U.S. Other documents show that PhRMA agreed to help with at least three other reform campaigns.

There was no comment today from Pfizer but PhRMA responded to the memo disclosures by telling Bloomberg that it has long advocated for policies that give patients access to innovative drugs.

Republicans and White House officials accused each other of playing politics in the matter, but it is the first indication of how deeply involved the pharmaceutical industry was in getting health reform passed. Big Pharma came around to support the original bill, trading about $80 billion in additional taxes and some price rebates to federal programs for an expanded pool of insureds. And having picked that side, the industry is now sweating out the Supreme Court decision expected this month. If the requirement that Americans buy health insurance is deep-sixed, then some of the price restraints may remain while the market suddenly shrinks.

- read the Bloomberg story