Top Pharmaceutical Lobbyist Quits; Crafted Deal with White House on Health Reform

Politico and the New York Times report tonight that Billy Tauzin, former Congressman from Louisiana and now one of Washington’s highest-paid lobbyists, is resigning
as president of the drug industry trade group Pharmaceutical Research
and Manufacturers of America amid internal disputes over its pact with
the White House to trade political support for favorable terms in the
proposed health care overhaul.

As the industry’s top lobbyist, according to the New York Times, "Mr. Tauzin brokered the deal with the
White House and Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate finance committee,
last summer to limit the drug industry’s total costs under the proposed
health care overhaul to $80 billion over 10 years."

Mr. Tauzin’s departure is the latest unexpected fallout of the
Republican upset in the Massachusetts Senate race, which abruptly
transformed the health care overhaul from a near-inevitability to a
daunting cause.

Like almost every other seasoned Washington player, Mr. Tauzin, who
makes $2 million a year, bet on health care reform early –  only to
watch it come to a screeching halt.

Under his direction — and amid some protests from its board — the
organization had backed up its end of the deal by spending more than
$100 million on television advertising to promote the plan.

But after the health care overhaul stalled when Democrats lost the
Massachusetts Senate seat, some industry leaders felt the trade group
had gone too far giving concessions and could lose on some important
legislative issues without gaining the protection it had sought.

While both the White House and Tauzin initially refused to disclose terms of the deal, their hands were forced when Congressional supporters of  allowing importation of
cheaper drugs from Canada or permitting Medicare to bargain for lower
drug prices, and "Tauzin publicly accused the White House of failing to
stand for its end of a quid pro quo."

The arrangement — confirmed by White House officials and later in Congress — became a source of controversy among liberals who faulted
the administration for giving away too much and Republicans who had
traditionally been supported by the pharmaceutical industry. It
contributed to the perception that the Democrats were negotiating the
terms of the health care overhaul in secret meetings.

But the deal was also controversial within the drug industry, people
familiar with the group’s deliberations said, because some on its board
questioned whether the agreement would pay off for them. And when the
Republican victory in the Massachusetts Senate seat put the brakes on
the health care process, many in the trade group known as PhRMA
grumbled that it had all been for naught, these people said.

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