PhRMA Names Business Roundtable Head As New President, Looks To New Influence
John Castellani was named president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Tuesday, bringing his clout and lobbying power to the post after spending nine years representing CEOs as president of Business Roundtable.
The New York Times: "Castellani starts work in September for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, succeeding Billy Tauzin, a Washington insider who had represented Louisiana in Congress for 26 years. Mr. Tauzin resigned in February after promoting a compromise in the health care overhaul." Tauzin had "caught flak from some business interests" for trying to compromise on health reform by offering tens of millions of dollars in television advertising. Tauzin also promised drugmaker discounts that will reduce pharmaceutical spending in the United States by $80 billion during the next 10 years. "In Mr. Castellani, the drug makers get another insider with deep connections, though mostly from the lobbying world rather than inside Congress. He was named president of the roundtable in 2001 and credited with re-energizing the group." PhRMA spent $26 million lobbying last year (Wilson, 7/13).
Reuters: PhRMA's pledge was "to pay $80 billion over 10 years in price cuts and other concessions as part of a deal with the Obama administration and top Senate Democrats last June. The cost was seen as a small price for the $315 billion drug industry to pay in exchange for potentially 30 million more insured customers." Some analysts said, however, that that the deal had created disharmony among PhRMA's leaders and led to Tauzin's resignation (Morgan, 7/13).
Politico: "Castellani comes to PhRMA well-positioned for Washington in 2010, as something of a hedge depending on what happens in the November midterms - on good terms with the Obama White House, but also set up nicely in case Republicans take over the House of Representatives. Still, Castellani will have to operate in the midst of growing tensions between some business leaders and Obama. Castellani said he will focus on successfully implementing health care reform, including closing the gap in prescription drug coverage for seniors. And he said his group will continue fighting an independent Medicare payment advisory board, which would essentially force cost-cutting measures on lawmakers, limiting the ability of outside groups like PhRMA to lobby the outcome" (Frates, 7/13).
Dow Jones Newswires/The Wall Street Journal: He said he want to ensure "quick and smart implementation of the [health reform] law's so-called doughnut hole closure." Regarding the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which also was established in the law, "Castellani said he is concerned this advisory board will have 'overly broad powers which could potentially enact sweeping Medicare changes not authorized by Congress.' He wants to make sure the board is responsible, and has appropriate authority and appropriate oversight" (Loftus, 7/13).
The Washington Post: "As head of the Business Roundtable - an association of chief executives of major U.S. companies - Castellani has opposed most Democratic legislative initiatives, including the health-care overhaul. But he has managed to do so without alienating adversaries. Ranked Washington's third-largest lobbying entity in 2009 behind the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Exxon Mobil, PhRMA spends more than $2 million a month on behalf of drug conglomerates such as Pfizer and Merck, and could wield considerable influence on such issues" (Aizenman and Eggen, 7/14).
Roll Call: "'This is an industry and this is an association that has a history - as I have a history - of working with both sides of the aisle,' Castellani said in a conference call on Tuesday. 'My style and PhRMA's style will be to be politically relevant, not to be partisan.' 'We're not a rubber stamp for either of the political parties,' Castellani told reporters on Tuesday" (Murray, 7/13).
CongressDaily: The decision to hire Castellani "might help the organization win back Republicans angry with the group after they worked with Democrats on the healthcare overhaul, while retaining the moderate approach needed to work with whichever party is in power. Ipsita Smolinski, a senior health policy analyst at consulting firm Capitol Street, said PhRMA's decision to hire Castellani largely came from Pfizer CEO and Chairman Jeff Kindler, who also serves as PhRMA's chairman and contributed to President Obama's campaign in the 2008 general election. Pfizer is also a member of the Business Roundtable" (McCarthy, 7/14).