National Center Policy Experts Quiz Pfizer CEO Ian Read and Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky
Short Hills, NJ / New Brunswick, NJ / Washington, D.C. - Policy experts from the National Center for Public Policy Research attended the shareholder meetings of both Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson in New Jersey today, seeking answers from CEOs Ian Read and Alex Gorsky, respectively, on timely public policy issues including the government's possible abuse of the "academic detailing" portion of the 2009 stimulus bill, the need to repeal the innovation- and job-killing medical device tax, and Johnson & Johnson's decision to drop membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) after originally sticking with it.
Pfizer Issue 1: At the Pfizer meeting, Jeff Stier, director of the National Center's Risk Analysis Division, criticized the Obama Administration's practice of "academic detailing," saying that the practice, particularly in a non-transparent manner, carries potential dangers for the public. He asked what Pfizer's position on this is, and what, if anything, it is doing on the issue. [See footnote 1 for explanation of academic detailing]
Pfizer CEO Ian Read told Stier, "I'd like to say you expressed it very eloquently. Our views 100 percent coincide with yours, we think it is a waste of public money, and certainly we disagree with the fact that the government-funded academic detailers are not bound by the same rules of detailing and the same rules of truthfulness that we are. We have, as both part of the pharmaceutical manufacturers association and in Pfizer's individual efforts, we continue to educate Congress on this issue, and work with allies to try and get a reform on this issue. But as you know, it is a really large law, a lot of things are integrated into that law, and there are a lot of things that need to be reformed in that law, and this is just one of them."
Stier had a positive report about what he heard at the meeting both on academic detailing and other issues relating to our health care system: "I am pleasantly surprised about the drastic turnaround from supporting ObamaCare to opposing more government involvement in our health care system. We applaud Pfizer for standing up for free market principles and for transparency in government."
Johnson & Johnson Issue 1: Justin Danhof, director of the National Center's Free Enterprise Project, asked Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky his view of the National Center's proposal to Congress that it pair a complete repeal of the medical device tax with a halt to wind energy subsidies.
In response, Mr. Gorsky said Johnson & Johnson continues to work on health care reform and supported it since "the very beginning." Johnson & Johnson supports health care reform, he said, and set out four principles: 1) "we need to make sure that we better provide care for uninsured or underinsured consumers and patients"; b) this is best done "in a mix of public and private partnerships," c) "we think it should be done in a way that continues to reward innovation," and, d) it is important "that we try to remove disparities in care."
As to the medical device tax, he said Johnson & Johnson is "working with other trade organizations regarding it; we think there definitely are components of it that should be reconsidered." J&J want to make sure it "does not stifle innovation, and that it does not end up having a negative impact on employment in this country."
The National Center's Danhof called this response "tepid," noting "the medical device tax could cost Johnson & Johnson up to $250 million just this year." Danhof said, "This was far from issuing support for the National Center's proposal to fully repeal the medical device tax while replacing a significant portion of the lost revenue with a halt to federal wind subsidies."
Johnson & Johnson Issue 2: Justin Danhof noted that he had thanked then-Johnson & Johnson CEO William Weldon at last year's shareholder meeting for not caving in to the left-wing demands of the Color of Change organization to drop membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), only to see Johnson & Johnson cave in to the left about a month later. He expressed his disappointment with that decision and asked why it occurred.
Mr. Gorsky 's response was brief: "Regarding ALEC, we as a leadership team and frankly I made the decision that ALEC is no longer consistent with the principles in our credo and overall stakeholders."
The Johnson & Johnson credo can be found on its website here.
Following the meeting, Danhof was critical of Johnson & Johnson's decision regarding ALEC, saying, in part, "Bending to the will of radical race agitators is an incomprehensible corporate strategy that will lead to more loons from the radical left demanding the company adopt ever more extreme policy positions."
Amy Ridenour, chairman of the National Center, said, "It's not immediately apparent what in Johnson & Johnson's credo is at odds with membership in a mainstream conservative/free-market organization. So although this is a response, and it was a polite response, it is pretty close to a non-response. It may be that the left made ALEC controversial, and that Johnson & Johnson, like a number of other corporations, just didn't want to deal with anyone controversial, even if they do good work. The bad news is that the left can make anyone controversial, but the good news is that this is a game both sides can - if forced to - play. It doesn't lead us to a very civil society, but neither should the right just sit back and take it."
For more information about the National Center's visit with Pfizer, go here.
To hear audio of the exchange between Jeff Stier and Ian Read, go here.
For more information about the National Center's visit with Johnson & Johnson, go here.
To see a video of the exchange between Justin Danhof and Alex Gorsky, go here.
For more information about the National Center's proposal to repeal the medical device tax, go here.
The National Center for Public Policy Research is a shareholder in both Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.
The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than 4 percent from foundations, and less than 2 percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.
Contributions to The National Center are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.
Footnote 1: What is academic detailing? Academic detailing is the process through which the federal government, through a new "Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality" arising from President Obama's 2009 stimulus, has been disbursing millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to public relations agencies, who then send representatives, called "academic detailers," to doctors' offices to advise doctors as to what drugs they should prescribe, and for what purposes.
Because the federal government has a conflict of interest in that it wants to keep spending low, and has refused to be transparent about what it is telling doctors, the National Center believes Congress should revisit the issue of using tax dollars to hire public relations firms to give medical advice. At the very minimum, the National Center believes Congress should change the law to require full transparency, so the government's agents are required to abide by the same degree of scientific oversight and transparency standards demanded of others.