Obama loses an ally: Tauzin quits drug lobby 

Former congressman Billy Tauzin, now the top lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry and a key ally of President Obama who visited the White House 11 times in Obama's first 6 months, is quitting.

Why is he quitting a $2-million-a-year job as CEO of the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America? Right now, we can only speculate, but the New York Times chalks it up to Tauzin's big bet on Obama's health-care reform, which is now presumed dead. That would make Tauzin another casualty of Scott Brown's Senate victory in Massachusetts (an election in which Pharma came down heavily (very heavily) for Martha Coakley.

Tauzin worked out a good bargain for the drug industry in "reform," as I wrote at the time. The White House-PhRMA deal first reported by Tom Hamburger of the L.A. Times, protected the same special favors candidate Obama had attacked as harmful special-interest "game-playing": a prohibition on Medicare negotiating down the price of the drugs it was subsidizing, and the ban on reimportation.

In exchange, all the drug industry offered were some discounts for some seniors (a "sacrifice" that could actually boost profits), and $150 million to support "reform."

But even outside of that White House deal, the "reform" bill helped the drug industry: lengthy exclusivity for biologic drugs, an individual mandate, an employer mandate, a requirement that state Medicaid plans cover drugs, among others.

What's next for the drug industry? Will it stay cozy with the Obama White House, or is Tauzin's departure a sign that Big Pharma is jumping off the Hope & Change bandwagon?

If you're interested, check out my profile on Tauzin from September.

And here's my brief biofile on him:

>> Born June 14, 1943, in Chackbay, La., a backwater bayou town.

>> Elected state representative in 1972, his first foray into elected politics.

>> Elected to Congress as a Democrat in a special election on May 17, 1980, after Rep. David Treen became governor.

>> Co-founded the Blue Dog Coalition of conservative Democrats in January 1995 after the Republican takeover of the House.

>> Switched to the GOP in August 1995 amid considering a run for the Senate.

>> Named deputy majority whip in September 1995, becoming the first person to serve in the leadership of both parties.

>> Elected chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce after the 2000 election.

>> Helped pass the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act benefit in November 2003.

>> Gave up the commerce gavel and announced he would not seek re-election in February 2004.

>> Underwent surgery for cancer in his small intestine in March 2004.

>> Became president and chief executive officer of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America the same day he completed his 13th and final term in Congress on Jan. 3, 2005.

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Timothy P. Carney

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