|From a Blogger in the Pharmaceuticals Industry.|
IN THE PIPELINE: drug discovery
By Derek Lowe
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Bravo, You Dolts
Well, it's finally time for me to comment on last week's vote in the House on drug reimportation (although I don't expect there's much suspense about what my opinion is.) First off, I'm assuming that this bill is going to die in the Senate, since 53 senators have already signed a letter to that effect. But the night is young. There's no telling what my industry's lobbying could manage to accomplish, because they turned the House vote from a setback into a disaster.
I'm not the only person who thinks that way, of course. Let's go to the Wall Street Journal's Alan Murray: "The size of that victory was partly a backlash agains the industry's heavy-handed lobbying tactics. . .the industry needs to stop hiding behind cheap front groups and start telling its story straight." And here's a bit from an excellent roundup in the subscription-only newsletter BioCentury: "The vote was a wake up call that most members of the House are willing to support implicit price controls on biopharmaceuticals. They either do not believe that price controls would stifle innovation, or they do not care. . .the outcome put a bright spotlight on the deep antipathy to the pharmaceutical lobby's attempts to stifle its opponents."
That's the truth, PhRMA guys, and I hope you're learning to live with it. All this "Seniors Coalition" fake-grassroots stuff doesn't cut it any more, and it was idiotic to think that it would. Similarly sparkling was that plan of writing the talking points for the Traditional Values Coalition, in such a way that reporters could see that the software was actually licensed to PhRMA employees. Oh yes, when my mortgage payment rolls around, I can take comfort in knowing that my livelihood depends on people who thought that this was a slick and effective move.
I've said it before: the "unsafe drugs" argument is a loser. It smells, and the smell clings to people who take it seriously (or pretend to.) There are real arguments against drug reimportation, arguments that thinking adults have a reasonable chance of understanding and sympathizing with. But we can't make them while we're pretending that antihistamines from Edmonton are going to poison everyone, now can we?
As I said, I believe that this bill is going to evaporate in the Senate. But what have we here? That letter with the 53 senatorial signatures? The New York Times now has a copy of a letter signed by one of PhRMA's red-hot dealmakers, in which he helpfully points out that they're helping Sen. Santorum with "the logistics of getting this 'Dear Colleague' (letter) out to as many offices as possible. . ." Well, Santorum (who wouldn't have been my pick as point man, exactly) is at least saying that he initiated the letter. But doesn't this give some opportunistic Senator an out, if needed? "Why, I had no idea this letter was being circulated by (gasp) a lobbying group! I'll have to reassess my position. . ."
Oh, there are no limits to what we can accomplish over here in the drug industry. We can stop diseases in their tracks that used to mow people down like ripe wheat. We can bring some people back from the very parking lot of the funeral parlor, and we're staying up late at night trying to figure out ways to do it some more. And we can then take what should be the biggest reservoir of good will around, drain the whole damn thing, leap into the resulting mudhole and sink clear out of sight. Arrr.