A leading Republican has urged US drugmakers to halt the “short-sighted, misguided” $80 billion deal which they have agreed with the Obama Administration “at the expense of the American people".

At the behest of its chief executive Billy Tauzin, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) has chosen to “accommodate a Washington takeover of health care at the expense of the American people in hopes of securing favourable treatment and future profits,” writes House Republican leader John Boehner in a letter to Mr Tauzin. The agreement, which Representative Boehner describes as cutting a deal with the “bully” of Big Government, “leaves your own customers and employees behind – and it now has all the markings of a deal gone soar,” he tells Mr Tauzin.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama suggested that the Administration “may be able to get even more than” the $80 billion in rebates for prescription drugs as part of a health care reform package agreed by the industry in June. Moreover, Democrats including House leader Nancy Pelosi and Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman say they will not honour the deal, which was agreed between PhRMA and the Senate Finance Committee.

“In other words, now that the deal is publicly known and would be messy for you to reverse, Big Government is changing the terms – because it can,” Rep Boehner tells Mr Tauzin.

“Consequently, the jobs of PhRMA workers are no more secure than they were before, the threat to PhRMA’s groundbreaking medical research remains, and the American people – including PhRMA’s customers and the families of PhRMA employees – face the prospect of higher costs and reduced quality in health care,” he writes, and urges the association to “halt this short-sighted, misguided campaign and listen to the American people rather than continue to collaborate on an effort to spin them".

PhRMA has not responded directly to Rep Boehner’s charges but Ken Johnson, a senior vice president at the industry group, defended the industry’s commitment to health care reform, adding: “saving money during these difficult economic times is very important, as demonstrated by our $80 billion commitment to health care reform. But you simply can’t put a price tag on our commitment to saving lives.”

“Health care reform, if done right, will be a substantial step toward expanding coverage to millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans and changing the course of health care in the US toward real prevention and disease management, rather than just damage control,” he said.

Bloomberg’s pharma row
Meantime, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has baffled listeners to his weekly radio show – and delighted his political opponents - by suggesting that pharma chief executives are modestly paid.

During a discussion on the show last Friday, in which he claimed that drugmakers were being made scapegoats for the nation’s health care problems, Mayor Bloomberg said: “last time I checked, pharmaceutical companies don't make a lot of money, their executives don't make a lot of money.” However, he then seemed to think better of his remarks, because he came back from a commercial break to say that he had “now looked up the top pay” of some Big Pharma executives and found that “some of them are making a lot of money…. some of them are making a decent amount of, more than a decent amount of money."

Nevertheless, his comments were attacked as “ludicrous” and “a bitter pill for any New Yorker to swallow” by spokesmen for New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson, Mr Bloomberg’s main rival in the city’s mayoral election on November 3. The Mayor’s campaign team responded in turn by stating that “Bill Thompson has collected over $10,000 in contributions from pharma and pharma political action committees,” while Mayor Bloomberg “has never taken a dime from lobbyists or special interests.”

With an estimated fortune of $16.5 billion, Mayor Bloomberg is New York City’s wealthiest individual.

- According to the Executive PayWatch database run by the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), pay for top pharmaceutical executives in the US averaged $3,658,941 in 2008, although many far exceeded that, with Abbott Laboratories’ chief executive Miles White receiving $28,253,387 and Johnson & Johnson head William Weldon taking home $29,127,432.