Still Room for Change to US Healthcare: Pharma Exec

The problems facing US healthcare have not yet been fully resolved, according to the chief executive of AstraZeneca.

David Brennan, who chaired the pharmaceutical industry body PhRMA last year, told CNBC at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum that the situation with healthcare in the US is not certain.

“There’s still a lot of room for figuring out how to solve the budget problem in the US,” Brennan said.

“The problem I have with that is that it’s not a discussion focused on innovation and bringing jobs into the US. It’s a discussion focused on budget cuts. It’s not what’s being discussed here or in Brussels or Shanghai. They’re in a different place right now," he said.

With the country gearing up for an election next year and President Obama’s reforms to healthcare enacted last year, healthcare is quickly becoming one of the key debate topics for the Republican presidential campaign.

Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty has used fellow candidate Mitt Romney’s healthcare policies while Romney was governor of Massachusetts to attack the Republican front-runner.

He has argued that Romney’s reforms are very similar to the President’s recent changes, which many high-profile Republicans have attacked.

Pawlenty has vowed to repeal the healthcare bill if he is elected president.

“Policy matters,” said Brennan. “The way policy gets constructed significantly affects the amount we can invest in research and development and how long we get patent protection for our drugs.”

“It’s the pressure of pricing balanced against us having to demonstrate value in our products I think we’re being much more careful and selective in what we’re bringing forward because governments and payers are being much more selective about what they’ll pay for.”

Most of the major pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca, suffered sales declines in the US, the world’s most valuable market for medicines, following the enactment of the bill.

The industry is also facing declining revenues as patents are due to expire on many blockbuster drugs, including cholesterol treatment Lipitor, the world’s best-selling medicine, which is made by Pfizer.