Shortly after the news broke that President-elect Obama has chosen former Senator Tom Daschle to be his Health and Human Services Secretary (the guy who has jurisdiction over biopharma industry-crucial things like the Food and Drug Administration, Medicare, etc.), I paid a visit to the trusty Center for Responsive Politics www.opensecrets.org website to follow the money.
Over the course of his congressional career the CRP shows that not a single drug company ever broke onto Daschle's top-20 list of contributors. The only healthcare-related firm that pops up is Invacare , which makes medical products for the home like motorized wheelchairs and scooters (presumably things Medicare might pay for). Over the years IVC gave Daschle $48,000, putting the company 18th on the list of top-20 givers.
However—and this is likely not gonna go over well with pharma—one law firm ranks #4 and another comes in at #11. Which ones, you ask? Well, #4 is Simmons Cooper LLC and #11 is Baron & Budd. I'd never heard of them before, but a quick trip to Google got me to their homepages which both tout that they take on cases for people who want to sue pharmaceutical companies over prescription drugs allegedly gone wrong. Simmons gave Daschle $112,000 and Baron about half that.
In a research note to clients this afternoon, JPMorgan's Washington healthcare policy analyst Ipsita Smolinski writes, "This tells us that healthcare reform is high on Obama's priority list, as we would have expected Obama to select Secretary of Treasury, Defense, National Security, and State ahead of Health and Human Services. We expect healthcare and covering the uninsured to be a front burner agenda item in 2009."
So, what does Dashcle bring to the table? Smolinski expects him to toe the party line. "Democrats largely believe in reducing Medicare Advantage reimbursement, reining in pharmaceutical prices, and created an expedited pathway for biogenerics," she says. Biogenerics is shorthand for cheaper, generic versions tough-to-duplicate, liquid biotech drugs.
So, who will Daschle and Obama settle on for FDA commish? When I interviewed Dr. Steven Nissen for a separate story a couple weeks ago he said he's amused by all the speculation over him being a frontrunner for the position, that he likes his job as heart honcho at The Cleveland Clinic, that he hasn't sought the FDA spot and that he hadn't talked to anyone on the transition team about it. But that was two days after the election.
- Daschle biography
Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com