Big pharma's top lobbyist said what?

Everybody knows that Big Pharma is in bed with Republicans and is biding its time to join forces with them to kill Obama's health plan. Everyone also knows that Obama and the Democrats are really going to stick it to Big Pharma.

Everybody, apparently, except Billy Tauzin, the pharmaceutical industry's top representative in Washington.

I'm tempted to go into a whole, long preamble about the history of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which is the sector's main trade group, and Tauzin, a former Republican member of the House from Louisiana.

But I'm not going to because I'm so eager to show you this extraordinary clip from Tauzin's appearance on CNBC Wednesay:

(h/t NRO's The Corner)

I really suggest you watch this exchange between Tauzin and CNBC's ace pharma correspondent Mike Huckman (who seems to scarcely believe what he's hearing) but I'll borrow the excerpt used by The Corner for those of you who don't:

Mike Huckman: Just to clarify, then, are you saying that if there is some kind of universal health care plan where prescription drugs are more broadly available, and they're available at a cheaper price, that your sector may make up in higher prescription volume and sales what it might lose on price?

Tauzin: Oh, absolutely, Mike. Think about this: Almost half of the prescriptions that are written today go unfilled. And they're unfilled primarily because people don't have adequate insurance. ...

I'm not even sure where to begin reacting to what Tauzin says here and I won't try to hit all the points of interest. Let's just review the most important part: The pharmaceutical industry's number-one lobbyist, a conservative Republican ex-congressman, said drug companies could make up in volume what they lose from lower prices under a universal health care program.

Maybe PhRMA doesn't care where the money comes from, either.

Now, I don't want to get carried away. Tauzin and a lot of health care industry folks have been saying all sorts nice things about Obama's health reform agenda. Many of them will keep saying them until the day some Democrat in Congress writes that agenda into a bill, after which they'll start saying it will cause the end of Western civilization. Even in the midst of what he said to Huckman, Tauzin expressed PhRMA's opposition to Obama hiking the Medicaid "rebates" drug companies have to pay and to government price controls.

But for Billy Tauzin to say the market "absolutely" overreacted to Obama's plan by knocking pharma stocks down 10% in one day and then to say Obama's plan to increase federal spending on health care by at least $633.8 billion "ought to be a very optimistic and positive message for everyone who's interested in our sector of the economy," well, that's just incredible.

Jeffrey Young is a staff writer at The Hill.

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Jeffrey Young

Jeffrey Young is a staff writer at The Hill, the newspaper for and about Congress, where he covers health care, lobbying, politics, and the intersection thereof for the "Business & Lobbying" section. He's been covering health policy in Washington for a decade and still hasn't heard that one good idea that will fix everything. Email Jeffrey at

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