Friday, January 09, 2009

Writing On The Wall

It didn't take a rocket scientist (or a neurosurgeon) to see the writing on the wall during the 2008 election. After eight years of incredible mismanagement by the Republican administration, the American electorate was obviously ready for some change. Once that became clear, some traditional Republican allies in the corporate world began changing the tone and the substance of their rhetoric.

The prescription drug industry, for example, managed to come up with a new voluntary code of ethics (see my post on it here). According to this article in the Washington Post, PHARMA was even willing to go a bit further, and with good reason.

Conceding that it has long been viewed as Republican-dominated, the industry's lobbying arm plans to spend tens of millions of dollars on an advertising blitz promoting Obama-style health coverage for every American. ...

"We had better self-police and stop doing the things that cause so much criticism, or we're going to get legislated and regulated by government," said W.J. "Billy" Tauzin, the Republican former congressman who runs the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), a trade association. The changes, he said in an interview, are an effort to move away from the industry's "slash-and-burn kind of policy" in response to previous regulatory and legislative efforts.

Why the sudden concern for how it promotes its product? Well, there's no mystery as to what the industry is facing in the 111th Congress, and not just from Democrats.

On the immediate horizon are two proposed regulatory changes that would dramatically alter how the industry markets its products.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) intends to refile a bill requiring drug and biotech companies to report to the federal government all gifts or payments to physicians for research, speeches, travel, consulting or anything else. Companies failing to report would face financial penalties. The bill is in response to lavish industry spending, which critics maintain creates conflicts of interest for doctors.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, supports legislation giving the FDA power to selectively ban direct-to-consumer advertising in the initial years a medication is on the market.

And just in case spending millions of dollars on a new kind of advertising isn't enough, PHARMA took out a rather insurance policy, according to this graphic which accompanied the article:

Millions on advertising, millions in campaign contributions: yeah, that should get it done.

Meanwhile, the cost of prescription drugs will rise, adding to health care costs, but hey! an industry has to make a living, you know?

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