The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) has had a board reshake, naming Gilead Sciences Chairman and CEO Daniel O’Day as its new chair. The reorganisation comes after the industry group’s failed efforts to block the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the departure of several high-profile members.


Gilead Boss O’Day, “the Right Leader” at a Difficult Time

Succeeding Vas Narasimhan of Novartis, Daniel O’Day was joined in the new PhRMA board appointments by Pfizer’s Albert Bourla as the organization’s board chair-elect and Sanofi’s Paul Hudson as treasurer.

I look forward to helping advance solutions that protect the innovation ecosystem and ensure that medicines are affordable for everyone.

Daniel O’Day

O’Day, who joined Gilead in 2019 after a 30-year career at Roche and Genentech, claimed that in the new role he would “protect the innovation ecosystem and ensure that medicines are affordable for everyone.” He added: “With the right policies, and the outstanding talent in the biopharmaceutical research industry, our country can continue to lead the world in scientific innovation.”

PhRMA President and CEO Stephen J. Ubl endorsed O’Day’s appointment, asserting that he is the right man for the job under the organization’s current circumstances. “His deep understanding of how our innovative ecosystem works and the threats it faces make him the right leader for our organization at this time.”


IRA and Member Departures

The current period is indeed a challenging one for PhRMA. Despite the group’s sustained opposition, its lobbying efforts did not stop the Biden administration’s IRA, which allows the US government to negotiate drug prices for its Medicare programme, from passing in 2022. “They say this is ‘negotiation,’ but the bill gives the government unchecked authority to set the price of medicines,” railed PhRMA’s Ubl at the time.

Seen by some as a sign of the group’s dwindling influence in Washington, the passing of the IRA, which is beginning to take effect as the first ten drugs subject to price negotiations were announced in August, was followed by the departure of several of PhRMA’s prominent members, including AbbVie and AstraZeneca.

And not only did PhRMA see the withdrawal of high-profile members, it also subsequently lost some of its top executives, such as the federal lobbyist, Anne Esposito, and its senior vice president for policy and research, Jennifer Bryant.


Defeat on the Legal Front

After the IRA went through, PhRMA joined a handful of pharma companies, Merck, Boehringer Ingelheim, AstraZeneca, Bristol Myers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson among them, in attempting to take legal action against the US federal government to block the IRA.

Earlier this month, PhRMA’s case challenging the IRA’s legality filed last June and seconded by the Global Colon Cancer Association and the National Infusion Center Association (NICA) was dismissed on a technicality.

NICA was expelled from the case because, according to the judge, the association “lacked subject matter jurisdiction,” and since it was the lawsuit’s only plaintiff based in Texas, the judge upheld the government’s claim that the venue was not appropriate and dismissed the case.

Whether or not PhRMA plans to take further legal action remains to be seen. “We are disappointed with the court’s decision, which does not address the merits of our lawsuit and we are weighing our next legal steps,” said PhRMA spokesperson Nicole Longo.

Of the other cases brought against the IRA, BMS, J&J’s Janssen, Novartis and Novo Nordisk are awaiting a single hearing next month where the companies will be able to present their arguments opposing the bill.


Photo credit: Gilead Sciences