Phrma's Tauzin quits amid talk that White House deal caused tension within organization

Former congressman and powerful lobbyist Billy Tauzin is resigning as head of the pharmaceutical industry trade group after a deal he helped broker with the White House on health reform strained relationships inside the group.

The New York Times: Tauzin's deal with the White House, "to limit the drug industry's total costs under the proposed health care overhaul to $80 billion over 10 years," sparked internal dispute in the trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. "Like almost every other seasoned Washington player, Mr. Tauzin bet the health care overhaul was an unstoppable train, so he wagered it was better to get on board early — only to watch it come to a screeching halt. … But after the reform stalled, some industry leaders felt the trade group had gone too far giving concessions and could lose on some important legislative issues without gaining the political protection it had sought." Under Tauzin, PhRMA spent "more than $100 million on ads to promote the overhaul." The 66-year-old's last day will be June 30 (Kirkpatrick and Wilson, 2/11).

BusinessWeek/Bloomberg:  "The drugmakers' agreement with the White House focused on ensuring that elderly recipients of Medicare could afford medicines not covering under a gap known as the doughnut hole. Medicare is the U.S. government's health insurance program for the elderly and disabled." In addition to the $80-billion deal, Tauzin won agreement from the White House that it would not seek to allow cheaper drug reimportation from Canada. To deal, Tauzin also visited the White House 11 times between January and September 2009 (Gaouette, 2/12).

The Hill: "In a Thursday night release, Tauzin said, 'In January 2005, after a full year successfully battling a killer [intestinal] cancer, I was given a second chance at life, and appropriately chose to commit my next five years to the life-saving work of the people whose miracle medicines had just saved my own. For the past five years, I have given my all to that effort at PhRMA, and believe we have made a significant difference together'" (Cusack 2/11).

Politico: "Tauzin wasn't fired, but saw the growing board displeasure with his tenure and decided to step aside voluntarily. A pharmaceutical lobbyist familiar with the organization said there is little that will change with Tauzin's departure, including the $80-billion deal." Tauzin was elected to Congress from Louisiana as a Democrat in 1980 before he changed parties in 1995 and "was widely credited for repairing [PhRMA's] seriously damaged relationships with Democrats after they regained control of Congress in 2006" (Frates and Budoff Brown, 2/12).

The Los Angeles Times reports that Tauzin had been under increasing fire since the victory of Republicans in the Massachusetts Senate race last month. "A source close to Tauzin, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak about the matter, said Tauzin was asked to stay by a majority of the board members of the pharmaceutical industry group that he heads, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA. The source said that Tauzin's decision to leave was strictly personal" (Hamburger, 2/12).

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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