The pharmaceutical industry, having to deal for the first time with very low prestige with the public and the prospect of more-aggressive government oversight, is trying hard to improve its image and to avoid increased regulation. Conceding that it has long been viewed as Republican-dominated, the industry’s lobbying arm will spend tens of millions of dollars on an advertising blitz promoting Obama-style health coverage for every American. The first spot – sponsored by the drug lobby, consumer and labor groups, and health providers – was unveiled on January 8th. The industry bosses know that the American people back the President on this issue. They want to appear to be on his side in an effort to get points with the public.
On the regulatory front – and that’s where the real concern by the drug industry lies – there have been some most interesting developments. Last month, the drug companies began to voluntarily submit to a number of marketing restrictions, a more designed attempt to preempt stricter regulations that lawmakers in both parties are pursuing. The single one thing the industry fears and is working hard to avoid is effective government regulation. Billy Tauzin, the former Republican Congressman who now runs the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the drug industry trade association, says he is for moving away from the industry’s “slash-and-burn kind of policy” in response to previous regulatory and legislative efforts. If Tauzin felt compelled to make that statement, his bosses must really be concerned.
What really concerns the drug industry is the arrival of a Democratic president who, in tandem with a Democratic-controlled Congress, is expected to add muscle to the Food and Drug Administration and press for an overhaul of the U.S. health system. The drug companies, utilizing their political muscle over the year, have literally run the show in Washington. The fallout is that the companies have operated under extremely weak regulation by the FDA.
Some meaningful legislation giving the FDA badly-needed powers so that the agency can do its job may have a chance to pass this year. A number of Senators and House members, as well as consumer watchdog groups, are dedicated to the task of strengthening the FDA, which will include both funding for staffing, and added authority.
Source: Washington Post
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