government

PhRMA leader Tauzin resigns

The former lawmaker will step down after a career that included passing Medicare Part D and negotiating a health reform deal to cut drug prices.

By Doug Trapp — Posted Feb. 25, 2010

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Billy Tauzin, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, announced on Feb. 12 that he would step down at the end of June, about five years after he took the job.

"I now believe it is time I move on and hand the mantle of leadership of this great organization to others as passionate as myself, and to explore the many other interests I would like to pursue," Tauzin said in a statement, adding that he only committed to the position for 5½ years. Tauzin, a cancer survivor, said he is in good health.

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PhRMA President and CEO Billy Tauzin

His resignation comes after a pivotal year for health system reform in which PhRMA played a major role. Tauzin negotiated a deal last summer with Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D, Mont.) and the White House to trim drug costs for seniors by $80 billion over a decade -- an agreement that enabled the organization to back reform but that has proven to be controversial. PhRMA spent millions of dollars on ads supporting the Obama administration's health reform efforts, which are now stalled in Congress.

But PhRMA also defended its members' turf during Tauzin's tenure. Repeated attempts by some lawmakers to approve prescription drug importation measures failed, including an amendment to the Senate health reform bill offered by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D, N.D.) during floor debate in December 2009. Tauzin's leadership also produced the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, an effort by PhRMA and its member companies to provide free or discounted drugs to uninsured or financially struggling Americans.

Tauzin's resignation is a surprise, said Art Levin, MPH, director of the Center for Medical Consumers, an advocacy group in New York. "You would have thought it was a perfect fit," he said, considering Tauzin's experience as a member of Congress.

Tauzin, a Louisiana native, was a Democratic House member from 1980 to 1995. He helped found the House Blue Dog Coalition -- a group of conservative Democrats -- in 1995 but switched to the Republican party that same year. He is the only person to have held leadership positions in both major parties.

He chaired the House Energy and Commerce Committee from 2001 to 2004, during which his panel helped craft a landmark 2003 Medicare prescription drug benefit. He left politics in 2005 to head up PhRMA.

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