Billy Tauzin is stepping down as head of PhRMA amid speculation that the derailment of healthcare reform has empowered an anti-reform faction within the group.
Tauzin will leave PhRMA at the end of June and “will continue to serve in a consultancy role afterward,” the group said. PhRMA chairman and AstraZeneca CEO David Brennan said in a statement: “We are grateful to Billy for his strong leadership and many accomplishments at PhRMA these past five years, including his efforts to bring about healthcare reform. Under his leadership PhRMA has been a steadfast advocate of policies that support research and development and expand access to new medicines.”
A conservative Democrat-turned-Republican Congressman from Louisiana who was instrumental in moving the Medicare prescription drug benefit before leaving the House to helm PhRMA, Tauzin helped to reconcile the group with the reigning Democrats and secured a seat at the table ahead of the healthcare reform push. That didn't sit well with some of the more partisan Republican and compromise-averse of industry leaders.
In his five years at PhRMA, Tauzin hammered out voluntary codes reforming direct-to-consumer advertising, clinical trials and interactions with healthcare professionals – no simple task given sharp divisions among industry leaders. He launched the Partnership for Prescription Assistance program, which provides drugs to lower-income Americans free or at a steep discount, helping ease popular ire over drug prices. He also shifted the balance of the group's political contributions – and its rhetoric – away from heavily favoring Republicans.
And he negotiated with the White House on healthcare reform, agreeing to $80 billion in discounts – mostly going to close the “doughnut hole” in the Medicare drug benefit – in exchange for an agreement by the administration and the Senate Finance Committee not to impose price controls or take other steps to wring cost-savings out of the industry. The bargain locked in the industry's contribution to legislation that Tauzin, like most old Washington hands, thought unstoppable, but it outraged both the left and pharma figures on the right, who said Tauzin was giving away the store to the industry's political enemies and clucked when congressional Democrats like Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) sought further concessions.
Tauzin, who narrowly survived a bout with cancer in 2004, said in a release that his health remained “excellent.”
“My commitment in January 2005 was for five-and-a-half years of service, and I will have fulfilled that commitment this summer,” Tauzin said in a release.