Tauzin Accepts Position as President and CEO of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America
Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) will become president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical and Research Manufacturers of America when he retires from the House in January, the group announced Wednesday, USA Today reports (Welch, USA Today, 12/16). Tauzin, who has served in Congress for 24 years but decided not to seek re-election in November, will take the position Jan. 3 (Shields, Baton Rouge Advocate, 12/16). He will replace Alan Holmer, who in January announced he would retire (CQ Today, 12/15).
At a briefing to make the announcement, Miles White, chair of the PhRMA board, said, "Billy knows how to work across party lines, how to develop meaningful partnerships, and he will drive this transformation forward." He added that Tauzin "is a man known for finding unique and innovative solutions to existing policy changes" (Baton Rouge Advocate, 12/16). White, who also serves as CEO of Abbott Laboratories, said that Tauzin is a "leader that embodies action," adding, "He has seen the health care world through the eyes of a legislator and the eyes of a patient. He brings a unique perspective to turning patients' priorities into a reality and ensuring the industry is a partner in health with the patients and clinicians we serve" (Newmyer, Roll Call, 12/15).
Tauzin and White would not discuss Tauzin's new salary but said it would be comparable to those provided by other trade associations. Industry officials estimated Tauzin could receive $2 million or more annually, the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 12/16).
In an interview Wednesday following PhRMA's announcement, Tauzin said that the public image of the U.S. pharmaceutical industry has received a "black eye" because of rising prescription drug prices, high profits and several high-profile prescription drug recalls over safety concerns. Tauzin said his first priority as head of PhRMA will be to address those problems, adding, "I think the industry finally gets it. They've lost the connection with the American public, and they've got to rebuild the trust with the American public" (USA Today, 12/16). He said, "We're ready to face the fact that as an industry we need to do a lot better job of addressing family and patient concerns, to reestablish trust and confidence" (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 12/16).
Tauzin said his decision to move to the pharmaceutical industry was driven in large part by his recent cancer diagnosis (New York Times, 12/16). Tauzin attributed his recovery to Genentech's cancer treatment Avastin, saying, "I was treated with a miracle drug. ... The question is what I wanted to do with the new life God has given me. This is the mission I want to take on" (USA Today, 12/16). He said that he will "be a strong patient voice for the industry," adding, From cholesterol-reducing drugs to life-saving cancer and HIV medicines, this industry is a national treasure."
Tauzin also responded to criticism over the timing of his negotiations with PhRMA earlier this year. According to CQ Today, Tauzin "stirred significant controversy" early this year when "it was revealed that he had been negotiating" with private sector entities regulated by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, of which Tauzin was chair. Some Democrats and consumer advocates said it was inappropriate for Tauzin to conduct talks with the pharmaceutical industry while serving as a key negotiator in discussions over the new Medicare law and prescription drug benefit (CQ Today, 12/15).
Critics said that the Medicare legislation that Tauzin helped develop "included favorable terms" for prescription drug companies, including a ban on the federal government negotiating for discounts on medications. In response to the criticism, Tauzin stepped down from his post and said he would avoid future votes on matters related to pharmaceutical companies (Alpert, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 12/16). He also released a series of letters asserting that he did not conduct negotiations with PhRMA while helping guide the new Medicare law through Congress (Roll Call, 12/15). Tauzin in February announced that he had ended contract negotiations with PhRMA and would not make any decision about job offers until he left Congress (California Healthline, 2/27).
On Wednesday, Tauzin said the controversy was related to "pre-election politics," adding that there was "a lot of ill feeling left over after the last session" of Congress (Lueck, Wall Street Journal, 12/16). He added that he never negotiated with PhRMA while serving as chair of the commerce committee (USA Today, 12/16).
In addition, he said that negotiations halted during his treatment for cancer and did not resume until November, when his doctors said he was well enough to take on the new position (Baton Rouge Advocate, 12/16). Tauzin spokesperson Ken Johnson said, "There was never any contact by the industry or any of its representatives during the Medicare debate. Billy has served the public for more than 30 years. At 61, and following a near-death experience, he deserves the opportunity to explore the private sector and owes no one an apology" (Los Angeles Times, 12/16).
According to the New York Times, Tauzin "faces a paradox" as the new head of PhRMA in that "[m]illions of Americans love the benefits of prescription drugs but are outraged over drug prices and dislike drug makers" (New York Times, 12/16). According to the Journal, prescription drug prices are "likely to persist as a major political issue over the next few years, particularly as the Bush administration writes the rules" for the Medicare prescription drug benefit. Tauzin said that it is important that the drug benefit maintain "as much choice for patients and physicians as possible" (Wall Street Journal, 12/16).
Tauzin also said he would work to make more transparent the pharmaceutical industry's handling of safety and other important issues (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 12/16). He and White said that PhRMA will continue its efforts to block legalization of prescription drug reimportation. White said, "It's not wrong for Americans to want to stretch a dollar. But we need to solve this problem here in the U.S." Although ethics rules bar Tauzin from lobbying members of Congress directly for one year, he can still lobby the administration, including Medicare officials, the Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 12/16). Tauzin also can make campaign contributions, attend fund-raisers and "interact socially" with members of Congress (New York Times, 12/16).
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said, "The appearance is terrible. A chief architect of the Medicare prescription drug legislation is now going to represent the chief beneficiary of the bill. This will only reinforce the public's disillusionment with Congress" (Los Angeles Times, 12/16). Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) said, "As a member of Congress, Billy negotiated a large payout to the pharmaceutical industry by the federal government" (New York Times, 12/16). Public Citizen called for extending the ban on former lawmakers lobbying Congress from one year to three years.
"The largest lobbying operation in Washington has just raised the price tag for hiring the services of a former member of Congress," Frank Clemente -- director of Congress Watch, a branch of Public Citizen -- said (Los Angeles Times, 12/16). Mary Boyle, a spokesperson for Common Cause, said, "We think this is outrageous. It raises the question of whether, while negotiating the Medicare prescription drug bill, he was working for Americans or his own personal gain" (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 12/16).
Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) said, "Billy Tauzin brings to PhRMA extraordinary legislative skills at a time when the association faces great challenges. I am confident Billy will be able to reach across party lines and demonstrate to the Congress and the public that America's pharmaceutical industry is one of our most valued." Janelle Duncan, the legislative and regulatory counsel for Consumers Union, said that Tauzin "understands the legislative process," adding, "We hope this is the dawn of a new day at PhRMA where he will lead the member companies to more of a focus on safety and making prescription drugs more affordable for Americans" (New Orleans Times-Picayune, 12/16). Lawrence Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsible Politics, said, "This is the way Washington works. It is the classic revolving door." He added that Tauzin "can provide PhRMA with a strategy and members of Congress will know very well who is behind the strategy. Other people can go meet directly with the lawmakers" (Los Angeles Times, 12/16).
APM's "Marketplace" on Wednesday reported on Tauzin's retirement. The segment includes comments from Tauzin and Brad White of Public Citizen (Palmer, "Marketplace," APM, 12/15). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.