Bloomberg on Big Pharma: Not So Big, Kind of Big

Whenever Michael Bloomberg talks about money, or the free market, or how rich people behave, his words get watched very closely by a lot of people. Not that this has ever stopped him from saying what’s on his mind.

“Last time I checked, pharmaceutical companies don’t make a lot of money, their executives don’t make a lot of money,” Bloomberg said during his weekly radio show this morning.

Which would seem somewhat impolitic for a guy regularly characterized by opponents as being out of touch with ordinary citizens, and too sympathetic to ones who are especially rich.

After a commercial break, Bloomberg corrected himself, saying, “I looked up the top pay of some of these executives in big pharma; some of them are making a lot of money.” Bloomberg also said “some of them are making a decent amount of—more than a decent amount of money.”

Bloomberg’s comment came amid a lengthy conversation about rising health care costs and what to do about it.

Bill Thompson’s campaign was more than happy to accept the gift the mayor had presented them, quickly seizing on the earlier comment to press the out-of-touch argument by sending out a release headlined “Bloomberg Needs a Dose of Reality.” Look for more.

The issue of health care reform doesn’t really lend itself to convenient sound bites (unless maybe you’re Sarah Palin, in which case it kind of does). My best guess is that Bloomberg was trying to say that attacking the pharmaceuticals industry doesn’t solve the problem, which would be consistent with his general resistance to anti-business populism.

“We should buy drugs as inexpensively as we can. I always wanted to see if we can’t have some way of incenting the big pharmaceutical companies to work on drugs for these diseases that don’t affect that many people because in aggregate they are—it adds up to a lot of people,” Bloomberg said.

Which might have been a better way of putting it the first time.

Bloomberg on Big Pharma: Not So Big, Kind of Big