Article | May 22, 2014

What If Pfizer Didn't Exist In The U.S.?

Source: Outsourced Pharma

By Louis Garguilo, Chief Editor, Outsourced Pharma


by Louis Garguilo, Executive Editor, Outsourced Pharma

The most significant intellectual activity available to human beings is asking questions. A study of the creative but unfortunately under-utilized critical skill of questioning is documented in a new book by Warren Berget titled, “A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas,” published by Bloomsbury.

According to Berget and a variety of CEOs, researchers and other experts in this field, fundamental questioning can benefit start-ups and multi-nationals alike, including assisting in the discovery (or rediscovery) of the core reason for being in business.

Unfortunately, after what seems like a natural ability and inclination to ask literally thousands of questions when we are children, our schools and workplaces end up discouraging the use of questions. As a result, employees don’t bring the benefits of this skill to our organizations.

While reading the book, the big news swirling around our industry is the Pfizer bid for AstraZeneca, reportedly now well north of $120 billion. Additionally, I wrote an article regarding unemployment in our industry that was titled: “Is Long-Term Unemployment An Issue For Pharma?” The book, the article and the Pfizer-AZ megadrama with the concern it brings for the potential elimination of thousands of jobs, have coalesced into more thinking of employment in our industry.

Therefore, let’s take up the book’s challenge to create “a more beautiful question” for the pharmaceutical industry, one that perhaps leads to a level of enlightenment through debate and reflection. If we don’t become enlightened, at least we’ll raise more questions: Berget says initially the focus should be on bringing forth more questions rather than quickly trying to come up with answers. To get to the ultimate question that sets the world on fire, pre-questioning can play a major role.

Here is a pre-question to be posed to all those employed by the pharmaceutical industry:

“If an action that you are advocating actually harms your chances of keeping your job or gaining employment in your field, what is your purpose for supporting this action?”

This question is important particularly to those workers employed in the U.S. pharmaceutical industry who hold the opinion and/or actively advocate to “tax corporations more,” and other similar sentiments.

Pfizer is going after AZ to reduce what they and others already consider exorbitant and/or unfair taxation in the U.S., and would reincorporate in the U.K., a nation with a different (and lower) corporate taxing policy.

According to The New York Times Dealbook article of April 28th, “(a)t least 50 American companies have completed mergers that allowed them to reincorporate in another country, and nearly half of those deals have taken place in the last two years.” Specific to all people in the U.S., this means billions of dollars earned off-shore will never be spent in this country.

Those large amounts of funds might have helped create more jobs and a more competitive company here. Moreover, these strategies can lead to job cuts, which can only add to long-term unemployment issues.

Not Silly To Ask

Even “A More Beautiful Question” makes clear not all questions are productive and need to be taken seriously. However, the real concern is on the other side; it is more our habit of discouraging or not taking seriously the many questions we should ponder. This next question should be one to consider:

“If we could work to mitigate the reason Pfizer is pursuing this plan to acquire AZ, and thus save thousands of jobs, then how would we go about it?"

What if the U.S. government worked with Pfizer and other multi-nationals to come up with an agreement on reforms to international corporate taxation laws so as not to cause these corporate strategies that can be devastating for employees at all levels?

Sound like pie-in-the-sky? But isn’t that what the U.K. government has done to create an environment for job growth and the reason Pfizer wants to be there?

Should AZ come to the bargaining table, Pfizer will work with (and has already made a level of commitment to) the U.K. government to maintain and grow U.K. jobs. So here is the situation: A government (the U.K) with tax and business development policies attractive to the largest multi-national in the pharmaceutical industry (Pfizer), bargaining with that company on behalf of workers to allow the company the privilege of taking advantage of its tax policies. Wouldn’t it be beneficial to American workers if this type of dialogue were taking place in the U.S.?

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said in an interview on May 12th on CNBC (and in his new book) that he had the correct answer years ago but nobody was listening. His answer was to draft laws in the U.S. to make it more difficult for corporations to consolidate internationally to take advantage of favorable tax policies in other countries. As Berget warns in his book, perhaps jumping to answers often is not the best way to get to the fundamental issue or need at hand. Wouldn’t making it harder to operate from the U.S. simply discourage corporations even more from growing here in the first place? Wouldn’t they just try harder to avoid the new regulations? Sounds like an idea to create more jobs for accountants and lawyers, not scientists and engineers in the (U.S.) pharmaceutical industry. In a global economy and with a global industry like pharma, building walls to keep companies where they don’t want to grow doesn’t seem quite enlightened.

Of course seeking a level of enlightenment is how we started off this discussion. Some of the pre-questions above have worked their magic, just as Berget suggested. They have helped to form our more fundamental, “beautiful” question, particularly but not exclusively for workers of Pfizer and all citizens of the U.S.:

What if Pfizer Didn’t Exist In The U.S.?