News: CJ Exclusives

NCCBI Hosts Talks on Budget, Health

Easley taps efficiency panel while CEO talks drug policy

North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry held its 61st annual dinner Wednesday at the Raleigh Convention Center. Speakers at the event covered a wide variety of topics ranging from the state budget to pharmaceuticals.

Gov. Mike Easley opened the ceremonies by announcing that he has created a permanent council of business leaders to study ways to reduce government spending.

Called the Business Council for Fiscal Reform, the council will replace the temporary Governor’s Commission to Promote Government Efficiency and Savings on State Spending, which was put into place in 2001 and 2002. Easley told the audience that such a group was necessary because we cannot “cut or tax ourselves out of a recession. We must grow our way out.”

The keynote speaker of the dinner, Bob Ingram, former CEO of RTP-based GlaxoSmithKline U.S., described some of the myths and realities of the pharmaceutical industry and the “love-hate” relationship people have with prescription drugs.

Medicines cost more now than they did decades ago, Ingram said, but they also do much more. For example, the drop Lipitor can lower a person’s cholesterol levels at a prescription cost of about $1,500 a year. While expensive, the drug is a much less-costly alternative to a heart bypass operation, which would cost about $47,000, he said.

Ingram touched on such hot-button issues as the AIDS epidemic in Africa and generic drugs.

Decrying inadequate protection under current patent laws, Ingram said it costs about $800 million to bring just one drug to the market. Ingram said his only complaint with generic drug companies is that sometimes they breach patent laws by bringing a generic drug to the market before the law allows.

In regards to AIDS in Africa, Ingram said the pharmaceutical industry should help with such an epidemic, but not until a proper infrastructure has been installed in the affected countries, allowing the medicines to be properly administered and regulated.

John F. McNair, III, a Scotland County native and former NCCBI chairman, received the Citation for Distinguished Citizenship Award. A retired Wachovia executive, McNair helped raise millions of dollars for the Senior Services Foundation of North Carolina.

The Rev. Billy Graham also was presented the Citation for Distinguished Public Service Award. Graham’s son, Franklin, accepted the award because the elder Graham was ailing and unable to attend.

Franklin Graham said that although his father has spent much of his life away from North Carolina, he always considered the state his home. So much so, he said, that he had an easy task last year when he undertook to persuade the elder Graham to move the headquarters of the Graham ministries from Minneapolis to Charlotte.

In keeping with the spirit of the meeting, Franklin Graham also said that in relocating his organization’s headquarters, 250 new jobs would be created immediately in the state and that at least 200,000 tourists could be expected to visit the center each year.

Hood is an editorial intern at Carolina Journal.