PR View by Michael Durand

A year ago, if you told a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist that Nancy Pelosi would be Madame Speaker, Ted Kennedy would chair the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, Charlie Rangel would lead House Ways and Means and John Dingell would be the man to see at Energy and Commerce, he'd say you were smoking something. Well, light 'em up, because it's a brand new Washington.

Politicians are not especially fond of massive changes in the status quo. While there undoubtedly will be hearings on Medicare reform, marketing and advertising practices, Democrats, particularly newbies such as Sens. Menendez (D-New-“All the Drug Companies Live Here”-Jersey) and Casey of (D-“Except the ones that live here”-Pennsylvania) will find it difficult to support legislation that would  torpedo one of their greatest industries.  

Peter Carson, aide to Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT), notes: “While individual members of Congress, including committee chairmen, may be ideologically driven, the institution of Congress is ultimately a pragmatic body whose need for consensus building to achieve outcomes makes radical departure from the current policy unlikely.”

Members of Congress realize the drug industry is one of America's greatest national resources, responsible for the vast majority of global drug research and development.   They have seen other American industries fade and are hardly willing to see this one crumble.

In 2007 the industry will be competing with activist legislators for the hearts and minds of a skeptical public.  In this environment, the industry must redefine its arguments, but in crafting these arguments, it must realize that old defenses, largely embedded with legal rationalizations, won't fly with the new Congress or the public.

Michael Durand is managing director, healthcare strategy and planning at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide