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fizer’s chief executive Jeffrey Kindler has said he expects plans for healthcare reform in the USA to be approved by the end of this year and has supported the moves despite the additional costs that the pharmaceutical industry will have to bear.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Kindler praised the US Senate Finance Committee’s latest draft, saying that it was “balanced and thoughtful”. He has given his backing to the the $80 billion, 10-year cost savings deal agreed in June between the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and SFC chairman Senator Max Baucus, despite the fact that it would “certainly cost the industry” money.

Mr Kindler also rejected criticism that there would be “an enormous offsetting windfall from new customers” as a result of additional cover being proposed for uninsured Americans, and told the newspaper that “we think these are the right things to do for patients”. His comments come at a time when the US House of Representatives’ (as opposed to the Senate’s) version of the Affordable Health Care for America Act (HR 3962) included requiring firms to provide drug rebates for people enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid. Observers believe the House plan could cost the industry $150 billion over a decade.

Mr Kindler responded by saying that the final legislation has to avoid price controls and safeguard Medicare Part D, which provides access to drugs for the elderly. He added that the latter scheme had proved effective because “while it was publicly funded, it was privately delivered”.

Pfizer now dramatically different
The Pfizer chief also spoke to the FT about the new entity created by his firm’s recently-completed $68 billion merger with Wyeth, He said that Pfizer is now “dramatically different” from the one he took over three years ago, with a broader, more diversified range of businesses “from neo-natal nutrients to Alzheimer’s”.

Mr Kindler said that “we were a paradigm of the model of the successful pharma company of the 1990s, in the developed world, in primary care and with blockbusters...and New York-centric”. Now, he argued, Pfizer was less dependent on a single product and more entrepreneurial.

He concluded by saying that “my overall goal is to provide a balanced, diversified but predictable and consistent source of earnings growth. That’s a better position than one that is highly volatile and wholly dependent on one or two products".

Bid for Protalix
Meantime, TheMarker supplement of the Haaretz newspaper has claimed that Pfizer is considering a collaboration with Protalix Biotherapeutics and may even try to buy the Israeli company.

A Pfizer delegation visited Protalix facilities in Carmiel last week and some form of link-up could be on the horizon. Protalix, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and has a market capitalisation of around $725 million, recently published positive Phase III trial of Uplyso (taliglucerase), its treatment for Gaucher disease.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries has also been linked with Protalix and Haaretz said that Teva’s vice chairman Phillip Frost owns 10% of the latter’s stock. The venture capital firm Pontifax headed by Teva chairman Eli Hurwitz has a 4% stake.