Friday, June 27, 2008

Who is the Best Presidential Candidate for the Pharmaceutical-Life Sciences Industry-McCain or Obama?--Thoughts as the Summer Begins

We had discussed earlier whom would be the “best” presidential candidate for the Pharmaceutical-Life Sciences industry. With Obama and McCain as the presumptive candidates this Fall, we thought it useful to give our opinion on who would make more sense for our industry. Unfortunately, based on the rhetoric and their stated ;positions, we are dealing with the proverbial Hobson's choice.

Recently CNBC ( noted that “both Barack Obama and John McCain promise substantial changes if they win. In fact, their agendas will likely affect a wide range of companies from Alcoa to Zygo Corp. But the companies that get hit hardest are probably in health care. Why? Both candidates promise a prescription for Uncle Sam's ailing health care system. McCain may allow foreign imports of drugs while Obama could allow Medicare to negotiate prices with the likes of Pfizer and Merck. That move could cost the industry $30 billion.”

One measure of how the industry feels is to look at their Political Action Committee (PAC) contribution—basically voting with their money. In a recent article, Bloomberg Business ( talked about both candidates vis a vis the industry as follows: “Pharmaceutical industry employees and PACs contributed $516,839 to Bush in 2004, compared with $280,688 for Kerry, according to the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics. This time around, they gave $339,729 to Obama, $262,870 to Clinton and only $74,850 to McCain through March.” They go on to say that McCain is

no friend of the industry: ``McCain has not characterized himself as a friend of the industry,'' said Dan Mendelson, president of Avalere Health LLC, a Washington research company. During a Jan. 5 debate in New Hampshire, McCain criticized the drug companies for high prices charged to the government's Medicare and Medicaid programs and said he backed importing cheaper drugs from Canada, a position also held by his Democratic opponents.” His position on re-importation has not softened and is the single policy point listed on his website:

“CHEAPER DRUGS: Lowering Drug Prices. John McCain will look to bring greater competition to our drug markets through safe re-importation of drugs and faster introduction of generic drugs.”


Bloomberg Business goes on further to quote: ``How could pharmaceutical companies be able to cover up the cost to the point where nobody knows? Why shouldn't we be able to re-import drugs from Canada?'' McCain asked. One of his former opponents, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, interjected, telling McCain not to paint drug companies as ``big bad guys.'' ``Well, they are,'' McCain responded.

If the above seems challenging, consider Barack Obama's positions (Source: care/):

“Lower prescription drug costs. The second-fastest growing type of health expenses is prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical companies are selling the exact same drugs in Europe and Canada but charging Americans more than double the price. Obama will allow Americans to buy their medicines from other developed countries if the drugs are safe and prices are lower outside the U.S. Obama will also repeal the ban that prevents the government from negotiating with drug companies, which could result in savings as high as $30 billion. Finally, Obama will work to increase the use of generic drugs in Medicare, Medicaid, and FEHBP and prohibit big name drug companies from keeping generics out of markets.”

On the potential more positive front, “Obama strongly supports investments in biomedical research, as well as medical education and training in health-related fields, because it provides the foundation for new therapies and diagnostics. Obama has been a champion of research in cancer, mental health, health disparities, global health, women and children's health, and veterans' health. As president, Obama will strengthen funding for biomedical research, and better improve the efficiency of that research by improving coordination both within government and across government/private/non-profit partnerships. An Obama administration will ensure that we translate scientific progress into improved approaches to disease prevention, early detection and therapy that is available for all Americans.”

So there are “the facts” as we know them, what is clear is that if either candidate has their way, the Pharmaceutical industry can add even greater political pressure especially on pricing to its list of worry and challenges. By the narrowest of margins, we come down on the side of Obama—his approach to the industry seem a bit (very small bit) more balanced, he seems to recognize the need for R&D and to a degree the rewards that go with that success, he is more likely to extend health care coverage to a wider group of Americans and provide broader prescription coverage despite pricing pressure. What is clear to me is that one should not base their voting preference based on either candidates view on the industry.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

An Interesting New Product

Occasionally, I receive word of a new product that catches my interest and I like to pass it along to my readers. I avoid the large, global product releases because everybody writes about them and even if they didn’t, enough money gets spent promoting them that half the Universe has probably been bombarded with information about them. So when, I received a copy of Spellex’s press release about their new medical and pharmaceutical spelling dictionaries, I was, to say the least, intrigued. While I love Microsoft’s spell check features, let’s face it, when you get too technical, too quickly, you outpace its abilities without too much difficulty. Now, Larry occasionally teases me, no, let me call it what it is, he roasts me by saying that my submissions have been limited by my ability to spell some of the words used in the life sciences sector. This is not true at all, however, trudging around the Web looking for the correct spelling does sometimes temper my enthusiasm for a topic. Spellex’s products give their users the ability to quickly get this information and for an additional fee there is an update service. They cover hundreds of thousands of words, including acronyms, Latin and Greek terms. OK, these guys are nothing if not thorough. I have received no compensation to write this blog entry and I haven’t used the product myself. But, I have not let things like that stop me from having an opinion. The products can be checked out at and the site is definitely worth a visit if spelling is one of your weak points.
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Contributed by Guy de Lastin