Tauzin stepping down as head of PhRMA

Former Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) is stepping down as the head of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Tauzin, 66, has been a major player on healthcare reform during the 111th Congress. He worked closely with the White House to strike a deal where the industry agreed to policy changes that would help pay for an overhaul of the nation's healthcare system. The pact limited these changes to $80 billion over 10 years.

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Some believe that the White House, as part of the deal, promised not to pursue drug reimportation legislation, which has long been opposed by PhRMA. But the White House and drug industry officials disputed those claims.

Tauzin, a cancer survivor who makes $2 million a year, is leaving PhRMA voluntarily and will remain with the group until June 30 to help pick a successor, according to PhRMA. The search for Tauzin's replacement will be led by the PhRMA Board's Nominations and Compensation Committee, the group said.

In a Thursday night release, Tauzin said, "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. For the past five years, I have given my all to that effort at PhRMA, and believe we have made a significant difference together.”

"We are grateful to Billy for his strong leadership and many accomplishments at PhRMA during these past five years, including his efforts to bring about health care reform,” said David Brennan, chief executive officer of AstraZeneca, and chairman of PhRMA.

Tauzin said, "I now believe it is time I move on and hand the mantle of leadership of this great organization to others as passionate as myself, and to explore the many other interests I would like to pursue in this special second-chance life that I have been given. My health is excellent and I look forward to exciting new challenges ahead."

He added, "My commitment in January 2005 was for five and a half years of service, and I will have fulfilled that commitment this summer."

Before Tauzin joined PhRMA, he served as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee where he played a leading role in crafting the 2003 Medicare prescription drug law.