5 Biopharma Influencers Likely to Be on Trump’s Transition Team

Published: Nov 16, 2016

5 Biopharma Influencers Likely to Be on Trump’s Transition Team November 16, 2016
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

Although no one is completely sure who President-elect Trump will place in various positions of influence to the biopharma industry, there is a fair amount of speculation. Given that there appears to be a fair amount of chaos at the moment regarding the transition team, with the firing of Chris Christie, replacement by Mike Pence, and the resignation of former Representative Mike Rogers from the transition team, who these influencers are might very well change. Nonetheless, Sheila Kaplan, writing for STAT, takes a shot at it.

Aside from his divisive rhetoric regarding women, minorities, the disabled and immigrants, Trump ran on the idea of being a Washington “outsider” who was going to “drain the swamp.” In taking over the transition team, Vice President-elect Pence has made a decision to remove lobbyists from the transition team. Since lobbyists often bring a great deal of expertise and experience to the table, it’s not clear how long that exclusion will last or if it’s at all practical.

1. Former Representative Mike Ferguson

Ferguson was the U.S. Representative from New Jersey for eight years. He currently works at the law firm BakerHostetler, which acts as a lobbyist for Celgene , Advaxis , and the Children’s Hospital Association.

Ferguson is apparently working with the transition team. It remains to be seen whether Ferguson will have an actual role long-term or short-term.

2. Tommy Thompson, former Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Thompson was also the governor of Wisconsin from 1987 to 2001. Initially he endorsed John Kasich for president, but eventually founded the Bush Alumni Coalition Supporting Trump, which launched in later September. He’s also another lobbyist, a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, whose clients include the American Medical Association, PharmAthene, and the Alliance for a Stronger FDA. He is also the chief executive officer of PSI, a nonprofit global health care company which has partnerships with Merck , Pfizer , Bayer , and AstraZeneca .

3. Paula Stannard, former deputy general counsel to HHS

Stannard is currently with the law firm of Alston & Bird. She will be working under Andrew Bremberg, who is leading the HHS transition. While deputy general counsel at HHS, she oversaw food and drug issues, as well as federal health insurance and public health preparedness.

STAT notes, however that that Alston & Bird brought in more than $4.4 million so far this year lobbying for healthcare companies and trade groups that include Novartis AG , Verax Biomedical, the American Hospital Association, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and Aetna.

“I think this reflects the fact that Trump’s pledge to drain the swamp is not going to take place,” said Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, to STAT. “Individuals who have close ties to regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals is worrisome, because such individuals are likely to pursue an agenda that is very industry friendly and not consumer and patient friendly.”

4. Holland and Knight

This is a law firm and lobbying firm with significant influence in health care. On November 11, the company drafted an in-depth memo for its clients and created an online Presidential Transition Analysis Center.

“We have a group of folks who have been involved and are involved in the transition,” said Lisa Tofil, a partner at the firm to STAT. “We wanted to put out something more substantive for our clients, in terms of the roller coaster ride we’re about to go on again. We think that’s valuable.”

When asked if the law firm’s hospital clients were concerned about Trump’s vow to appeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), she said, “The best way to describe it is they are assessing threats and opportunities. Let the discussion begin, it’s going to be a wild ride.”

5. Representative Marsha Blackburn

Blackburn was chair of the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and an opponent of abortion rights. A Republican Representative from Tennessee, she led an investigation into the stem cell industry.

That investigation, dubbed a “witch hunt” by Democrats and a “rescue mission for the unborn” by Republicans, took on a dramatic turn when it went after California-based StemExpress. The panel had started contempt proceedings against StemExpress, although apparently that never went anywhere.

The company’s attorney, Frank Radoslovich, described Blackburn’s committee this way. “We have a panel of zealots that have already proven that they will disclose or mischaracterize documents, or just flat-out make up things and attribute it to us.… Our client is committed to give the panel what it may legitimately and reasonably need, but not documents that are clearly designed just to be disclosed to whoever consumes that information in an evil way.”

In that, Pence is very outspoken and opposed to abortion, stem cell research, and women’s reproductive rights, Blackburn would not be a surprising choice.

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