Saturday, November 8, 2008

Obama's win means changes for US pharma industry

Friday 7 November 2008
Sue Sutter - Washington Editor

Democrat Barack Obama's victory in the US presidential elections and increased Democratic majorities in Congress herald potentially dramatic changes in how healthcare and pharmaceuticals are purchased and supplied.

Mr Obama's defeat of Republican John McCain on November 4th, and the president-elect's selection of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff, suggest the pharmaceutical industry will have an uphill battle in staving off direct government price negotiations in the Medicare Part D programme. The legalised importation of medicines and a new federal emphasis on comparative effectiveness research could also pose challenges.

In the first few months of Mr Obama's administration, any of these measures could find their way into a bill expanding the state/federal programme that provides health insurance to low-income children. That programme, known as SCHIP, needs to be reauthorised this spring.

On the positive side, pharma would benefit from a broad expansion of health insurance – a cornerstone of Mr Obama's campaign platform – as more coverage means more individuals able to afford medicines. The new president may also move quickly to reverse current federal funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research by signing an executive order. Alternatively, a measure expanding such research funding could be one of the first healthcare bills passed by the new Congress...

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