Billy Tauzin is resigning from his $2 million-a-year job as president and chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

No successor has yet been chosen for Mr Tauzin, who says he will continue as a consultant to the industry group after leaving his post on June 30. Aged 66, he is a survivor of a rare form of intestinal cancer, but his health is not thought to be an issue in his decision to stand down from the industry’s top lobbying job.

Mr Tauzin pointed out that he had been the first-ever cancer patient to lead PhRMA as its chief executive but added that his health is now “excellent.”

“In January 2005, after a full year successfully battling a killer cancer, I was given a second chance at life, and appropriately chose to commit my next five years to the life-saving work of the people whose miracle medicines had just saved my own,” he said, adding: “my commitment in January 2005 was for five and a half years of service, and I will have fulfilled that commitment this summer. By then, I hope and expect that a great successor will have been chosen, and I intend to work with PhRMA’s new CEO to ensure a smooth and successful transition.”

Mr Tauzin served as a member of Congress for Louisiana from 1980 to 2005, first as a Democrat and then switching to the Republican Party in 1995. He chaired the House Energy and Commerce Committee from 2000 to 2004, leaving Congress the following year to take up his post at the industry association.

PhRMA chairman David Brennan praised Mr Tauzin's “strong leadership and many accomplishments at PhRMA during these past five years, including his efforts to bring about health reform. Under his leadership, PhRMA has been a steadfast advocate of policies that support R&D and expand access to new medicines,” said Mr Brennan, who is chief executive of AstraZeneca.

However, Mr Tauzin has taken some strong criticism from both sides of the political aisle for negotiating - with US Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus - a maximum $80 billion contribution from the industry over 10 years towards the Obama Administration’s health care reform plans. House Democrats pointed out that they had been excluded from the deal, which was agreed last June and received White House approval, while others were angry that the negotiation process had led to the Administration dropping its support for prescription drug re-importation and for allowing the federal government to negotiate drug prices for the federal Medicare health insurance programme - measures which were fiercely opposed by the industry but had been supported by President Barack Obama during his election campaign.

Republicans also complained that the deal would permit the federal government to take control of health care in the USA.

Nevertheless, the industry group then spent more than $100 million on advertising to promote the reform legislation, which by the beginning of this year had reached the House/Senate reconciliation stage. However, progress was abruptly halted on January 19, when Republican Scott Brown won the Senate seat for Massachusetts vacated by the death of Senator Edward Kennedy, thus depriving the Democrats of their essential 60-seat majority in the chamber.

However, observers believe that the industry is keen to keep the deal going, and Pres Obama has now scheduled a bipartisan summit on health reform, to be held at the White House on February 25.