PHARMA: The Industry Veteran on the chances of rational moderation from Pharma

On Friday I commented on the proposal to withdraw liability from punitive damages from pharma products approved by the FDA, and (probably vainly) appealed to responsible people in pharma-land to take at least look this gift horse closely in the mouth. The Industry Veteran was not hopeful and ascribes my perspective of naivete to my place of nativity. He writes:

The perfidious Albion shows through your plaintive call for some responsible, intelligent action from Big Pharma. You wanly hope for the industry’s Wise Men to tell their CEO peers that current policies will create a devastating backlash. The fact is, Matthew, in American industry there is no House of Lords or even a council of seasoned gentrymen to provide rational thinking and responsible, adult behavior. The fiduciary officers who run the Big Pharma companies each seek to compile a stash of +/- $100 million in a fairly short period of time and then get out while they’re still young enough to enjoy these ill gotten gains. As a result, their thinking is focused entirely on the near term and contains not a whit of concern for the industry’s long-term survival. Given that they’re indifferent to the well being of their employees, customers and, for the most part, their shareholders, it is at best naive to hope that they would value something as nebulous as a legacy. Your call for the emergence of Pharma Wise Men is as much as cry of despair and an admission of spent thinking as the bedraggled Democrats who expect a more moderate George Bush to appear during the second term because he may want to establish a legacy.

A few months ago I had a similar conversation with an acquaintance who retired from Bristol-Myers Squibb. I expressed my view about the narrow, self-serving approaches of Pharma management.

"I said the same thing to Charlie Heimbold," he told me, referring to the previous chairman of BMS. "When I mentioned the $100 million figure, Charlie stopped dead in his tracks as we were walking down the hallway and said, ‘Is that all they’re looking to get? They ought to be fired for not being ambitious enough!’"

I responded by asking how much Heimbold took with him when he retired. "It was easily $500 million," said the confidant.

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