Lilly CEO: Obama plan hurts innovation-WEB ONLY

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Eli Lilly and Co. CEO John Lechleiter said during a speech today in Washington, D.C., that he opposes the public-plan option at the center of President Barack Obama’s health care reform principles.

He also warned that the “comparative-effectiveness” research of medical treatments, which received vast funding in Obama’s February stimulus bill, could go wrong if it’s used to dictate medical practice and prices.

Both ideas would stifle the innovations at the heart of Indianapolis-based Lilly’s business, he said.

“Encouraging innovation needs to be the purpose of U.S. health care reform – not its victim,” Lechleiter said, according to a transcript of his speech.

“In the last several months, as I’ve listened to legislators and policymakers talk about health care reform, the word ‘innovation’ never seems to come up, not even as an afterthought.”

Lechleiter delivered his comments before a meeting of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

President Obama has called for a government-run health insurance plan – modeled on the current plan offered to federal employees – that American employers and consumers could choose.

But Lechleiter echoed conservatives’ arguments that a publicly funded plan would eventually crowd out all private-insurance options.

“Many employers would stop covering their work forces and send them to the public plan,” Lechleiter said. “And private insurers could not compete with the resources of the Treasury or the power of the law to set reimbursement rates, or the inevitable tendency of governments to dictate care choices.”

Lechleiter repeated Lilly’s call for Congress to OK generic biotech drugs, also called biosimilars, but to keep them off the market until 14 years after the original drug was submitted for market approval.

Some in Congress are pushing for only five years of protection for biotech drugs.

“The answer is most certainly not the status quo,” Lechleiter said. “But for every idea that puts innovation at risk, there are viable alternatives that still move America toward improved access, better quality, and manageable health care costs.”

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