March 22, 2023

Johnson & Johnson Executives Not Remorseful Over ObamaCare Role

Press Release from the National Center for Public Policy Research:

With Affordable Care Act Collapsing, Pharmaceutical Giant That Promoted It Now Claims It is “Neither a Red Nor Blue” Company

Free Enterprise Project Continues Campaign to Push Corporate Support for Obamacare Replacement

New Brunswick, NJ / Washington, DC –  Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky expressed zero remorse for the company’s integral role in creating ObamaCare, but did vow to work with the Trump Administration and congressional leaders on future health care initiatives. He made this statement today at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in New Brunswick, New Jersey in response to a question from a representative of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project (FEP) – the nation’s leading proponent of free-market investor activism.

“For the millions of Americans who are suffering under the high costs and burdensome regulations of ObamaCare, Gorsky’s response was less than satisfying,” said National Center General Counsel and FEP Director Justin Danhof, Esq., who attended today’s Johnson & Johnson shareholder meeting and questioned Gorsky. “While we are glad Johnson & Johnson will play a role in working with President Trump on a new path away from ObamaCare, the company still owes a sincere apology to the millions of Americans who suffered harm under ObamaCare. Companies that foisted ObamaCare on the American people have a moral obligation to repair the damage that law has caused to millions. It’s that simple.”

At the meeting, Danhof noted:

Instead of supporting the new plan, you stated : “Whether you take the new plan, [or] the old plan, we are going to have to make changes. The challenges are that we still have a lot of other issues to take care of [and] how we are going to make sure that we continue to make some of the important improvements to healthcare from a quality, from an affordability and from a sustainability point of view.”

While no plan is perfect, this is far from the full-throated support the company once gave to ObamaCare. In contrast to your comments, after meeting with President Trump, Eli Lilly CEO Dave Ricks said that they “talked about a number of his policy proposals which, on balance, I think would be very good for us. Looking at regulatory reform at the FDA, the changes that are being contemplated on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, and taxation. . . All those things were good.”

As the current political climate offers a unique opportunity for both private industry and health care consumers, I have three quick questions. Do you feel that Johnson & Johnson now has a responsibility to help fix the overall health care marketplace since it was involved in the advancement of ObamaCare? Second, will Johnson & Johnson work with the Trump Administration and Congress to promote its health care agenda as it did with the Obama Administration? And finally, what specific reforms would you suggest to our new President?

Danhof’s entire question, as prepared for delivery, is available here.

“In response to my question, Gorsky claimed Johnson & Johnson is neither a red company nor a blue company. Essentially, he tried to portray Johnson & Johnson as politically neutral. But the company went all-in for ObamaCare despite its top-down approach to health care. Now that President Trump wants to move the nation’s health care delivery system closer to a market-oriented system, the company has been less than cooperative,” added Danhof. “We will continue to monitor Johnson & Johnson’s involvement with any potential ObamaCare replacement because it has a duty to the American people to be part of that process.”

This marks the third time this year the FEP confronted health care executives at their shareholder meetings to ask them about their role in ObamaCare and how they might work with the Trump Administration on health care reform.

Another health care provider in the pharmacy industry, Walgreens Boots Alliance,indicated to the National Center in January that it would be willing to help replace ObamaCare. Walgreens Chairman James Skinner told Danhof the company would be willing to work with the Trump Administration in finding a free-market alternative to ObamaCare. Following that meeting, Danhof joined former Rep. J.D. Hayworth on “Newsmax Prime” to discuss why it is important for corporations to work with the Trump Administration on health care reform.

In April, Danhof confronted Humana CEO Bruce Broussard with a similar question. At that meeting, Humana all but abdicated the company’s responsibility to be involved in the health care reform process.

Launched in 2007, the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group – focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. Since 2014, National Center representatives have participated in nearly 100 shareholder meetings to advance free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and many other important public policy issues. The Johnson & Johnson meeting marks FEP’s eight shareholder meeting attended so far in 2017. 

The National Centers Free Enterprise Project activism has yielded a tremendous return on investment:

  • FEPs highly-publicized questioning of support for the Clinton Foundation by Boeing and General Electric helped trigger an FBI investigation of the Clinton Foundations activities that dominated the 2016 presidential campaign.  
  • FEP inquiries prompted Facebook to address political bias against conservatives in social media.
  •  Company executives acknowledged media bias at ABC News (Disney), the Washington Post and CNN (Time Warner) in response to FEPs challenges, which helped to bring about more objective reporting and more balanced political representation.
  • FEPs Employee Conscience Protection Project strengthened protections for the political beliefs and activities of over five million workers at 13 major U.S. corporations.
So far in 2017, the FEP has been featured in media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Variety, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Breitbart, WorldNetDaily, Drudge Report, Business Insider, CNET, National Public Radio, American Family Radio and SiriusXM. In 2016, the FEP was also featured in the Washington Times, the Fox News Channel’s “Cavuto,” the Financial Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, the Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times, Fortune, Newsmax, the Daily Caller, Lifezette, the Seattle Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Tribuneamong many others.  The Free Enterprise Project was also featured in Wall Street Journal writer Kimberley Strassels 2016 book The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech (Hachette Book Group).

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank.  Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations and less than two percent from corporations.  It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.  Sign up for email updates here.  Follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter for general announcements.  To be alerted to upcoming media appearances by National Center staff, follow our media appearances Twitter account at@NCPPRMedia.


War on Health: The FDA’s Cult of Tyranny


Top Drug Execs Quizzed on Ways to Improve “Compassionate Use” Policies

Drugs the FDA Has Not Yet Approved are the Last Hope for Some Patients, Yet Access Often is Difficult

National Center Senior Fellows Speak Directly with CEOs of Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson

Short Hills, NJ / New Brunswick, NJ – Health policy experts with the National Center for Public Policy Research today questioned the CEOs of two of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, about needed improvements in public policies relating to co-called “compassionate use” of drugs that have not yet received FDA approval.

The “compassionate use” issue received national attention in March when the parents of 8-year-old Joshua Hardy requested and, ultimately, received for their son, access to brincidofovir, an anti-viral drug not as yet approved by the FDA.

National Center Senior Fellows Jeff Stier and David Hogberg asked essentially the same question at each company:

Our question is about public access here in the United States to investigational drugs that have not yet been approved by the FDA, commonly referred to as ‘compassionate use’ policies. We’re coming from a public policy perspective — that is, we’re interested in knowing if Company management believes there are things that can be done by government or the health care industry, or changes to laws and regulations, or even funding, to streamline access to unapproved drugs for patients who are literally down to their last hope.

At Pfizer, CEO Ian Read replied to Jeff Stier, in part (audio recording here):

I think it’s very important… Pfizer has always been very supportive of the use of pre-FDA-approved products in compassionate use, and we have a long history of providing them.

I would say, to answer your question more broadly, that pharmaceutical industries as represented by its trade association — PhRMA — is having dialogues with the FDA and with other stakeholders on how to improve and to simplify the access of people to compassionate use, balancing it with the ethical needs to run clinical trials that will produce the evidence that will allow a larger population to use those medicine in… knowing their safety and knowing their efficacy.

At Johnson & Johnson, CEO Alex Gorsky told David Hogberg (video here) that Johnson & Johnson is working with regulators to get drugs to market as quickly as possible:

We’re very proud of many of the investments that we’ve made in research and development over the past several years. We’re very proud of many of the investments that we’ve made in research and development over the past several years that we think have ended up having a remarkable impact as they’ve gone through extensive clinical trial and development programs so that we can ultimately bring them to market.

Dr. Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer for pharmaceuticals at Johnson & Johnson, added:

We have a lot of new drugs which are life-saving and which are very important for cancer patients and even people with serious infectious diseases and other diseases. And we are working very diligently with the regulators as well as with the with the health care community to provide access as soon as possible.

Of course, we always have to take into consideration the safety and efficacy before we expand it into the larger population.

We have had, for tens of thousands of patients, therapies out for HIV; for many, many patients in oncology… we provide significant access to patients who need a drug to survive as soon as possible.

It’s our life to provide medicines to patients, and we — as physicians in the company — we do our ultimate best to make sure we can as rapidly as possible make life-saving drugs available.

“I was a bit disappointed by Gorsky’s and Stoffels’ responses,” said David Hogberg. “I was hoping for a bit more detailed answer. It’s great that they are trying to get new drugs to the public rapidly. But if a cancer drug still has three years to go before FDA approval, that does little to help a cancer patient for whom that drug may be the only hope of extending his life. I had hoped that they had some specific ideas on how to improve practices regarding compassionate use.”

Regarding Pfizer’s response, Jeff Stier said, “We appreciated the opportunity to speak with Pfizer CEO Ian Read today, and with other Pfizer executives on other occasions, about the challenge of crafting the best-possible compassionate use policies. Everyone wants to save lives. The challenge is to have policies that work to save as many lives as possible in both the short run and the long run. We are encouraged to learn from Mr. Read that a process is ongoing between the pharmaceutical industry and the FDA to ‘improve and simplify’ compassionate use access while protecting the valuable data learned through clinical trials.”

National Center Chairman Amy Ridenour added, “Compassionate use policies are one of the most difficult, if not the single-most difficult, regulatory challenges the country faces. The challenge lies in devising ways to save the most lives possible: extending compassionate use of drugs as much as possible to people for whom these drugs are their last hope, while not undermining or delaying the clinical trial process that gets appropriately safe and effective drugs to the broader public. Saving lives is the goal; everyone agrees on that, but how to design a system that helps as many people as possible is difficult.”

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is a leading free-market corporate activist program. In 2013, Free Enterprise Project representatives attended 33 shareholder meetings advancing conservative and free-market principles in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, media bias, gun rights and many more important public policy issues. The National Center has participated in 11 shareholder meetings so far in 2014.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, three percent from foundations, and three percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.

Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.