The closing quote in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article about drug company donations to political candidates caught my attention (see “Strong Dose of Politics“). It was something that Billy Tauzin, CEO of PhRMA, the drug industry’s lobbying trade group, is purported to have said; namely

“You can’t really hurt this industry without hurting patients.”

This was said in relation to McCain’s criticism of the drug industry as in:

“Why is it that these people in this audience can’t go to Canada to buy the drugs they want?” McCain added. “Because of the power of the drug companies. I saw the Medicare Part D plan pass, and it inhibits, inhibits competition among pharmaceutical companies to pay for prescription drugs for Medicare patients. That’s wrong. That’s wrong.”

Tauzin was instrumental in getting the anti-competitive Medicare Part D law passed when he was a Congressman. As a reward, he was hired soon afterward by PhRMA.

Here’s my deconstruction of Tauzin’s comment.

First, as a retort to Sen. McCain’s criticisms, Tauzin’s comment implies that good American capitalist values like competition and freedom of choice “hurt” the drug industry. Second, it implies that these ideals also “hurt” patients.

[Follow the logic: Competition and choice — as espoused by McCain — hurt drug companies. What hurts drug companies also hurts patients. Consequently, competition and choice hurt patients. QED.]

On many, many other occasions the drug industry has said that competition and choice are good things, as when it develops and markets “me-too” drugs or claims that brand name drugs offer a choice to consumers in a world of generic competition.

Tauzin’s comments are a sad example of how the drug industry wants to “have its cake and eat it too,” which is something my mother always used to say. Well, Billy, I don’t have cake, but here’s your pie!