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Pharmacuetical industry

Drug company executives plot strategy for maintaining pharmaceutical monopoly after Democrats take over Congress

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 by: Jessica Fraser
Tags: pharmacuetical industry, drug companies, U.S. congress


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(NewsTarget) Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) -- a drug industry lobbying group -- held a meeting in Washington, D.C. last month following midterm elections to draft a plan of action to retain political sway in the Democrat-controlled U.S. Congress.

PhRMA president Billy Tauzin and other members of the organization met with a number of Democratic senators and representatives, urging them to seek positions as chairs of influential subcommittees with authority over Medicare and drug industry regulations.

Tauzin also met with a number of Democrats who have supported legislation on issues such as allowing imports of cheaper brand-name drugs from Canada, authorizing Medicare to negotiate cheaper prescription drug prices with manufacturers and restricting direct-to-consumer drug advertising.

Major drug companies have also hired a number of former aides to influential Democrats to assist in lobbying campaigns. For example, Merck recently hired a former aide to liberal House Democrat Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), while Cephalon hired a former health policy aide to Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson.

The biotechnology industry has also mobilized its lobbyists after resounding victories for Congressional Democrats last month. The Biotechnology Industry Organization recently signed on Paul T. Kim, a former aide to both Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.).

"It's all hands on deck," said Ken Johnson, senior vice president of PhRMA. "It's like a hurricane warning flag. You don't know where it will hit. You don't know who will be affected. But everybody has to be prepared."

Drug and biotech companies face serious profit cuts if Democrats pass legislation that allows Medicare price negotiations. Democrats -- set to head a number of influential subcommittees, including the Senate Finance Committee and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions -- plan to push for stricter drug safety regulations, as well as the development of low-cost generic alternatives to brand-name drugs.

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