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David R. Brennan

ceo, astrazeneca

David Brennan addresses the Boston College Chief Executives' Club in the Wharf Room at the Boston Harbor Hotel on May 6, 2008.

Drug co. chief:  Preventative care can help treat high costs

The American health-care system is in big trouble, David Brennan, chief executive of the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, said yesterday.

People are living longer than ever before and are demanding more from their health-care system, Brennan told Boston business leaders.

But because it takes about a dozen years and $1 billion to bring a drug from teh laboratory to a patient's medicine cabinet, the cost of health care has become out of reach for many people.

the best way to bridge the gap between increased demand and rising costs is "to adopt a more preventative approach," Brennan said at a Boston College Chief Executives' Club of Boston luncheon.

Attendees included Fidelity Investmetns chairman Edward C. "Ned" Johnson III and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

Edward C. Johnson 3rd (Chairman, Fidelity Investments), Edmund Kelly (Chairman, President & CEO, Liberty Mutual Group), Patrick Prevost (President & CEO, Cabot Corp.), Martin Madaus (Chairman, President & CEO, Millipore Corporation), Stephen Knight (President, Fidelity Biosciences), Fr. Donald J. Monan, S.J. (Chancellor, Boston College), John Murphy (Chairman, President & CEO, Oppenheimer Funds), Ted Lapres (President & CEO, Nypro), Michael Sheehan (CEO, Hill Holliday), The Honorable Thomas M. Menino (Mayor, City of Boston), David Barrett, M.D. (President & CEO, Lahey Clinic) listen to Mr. Brennan's remarks.


"We have got to get more serious about prevention," said Brennan, who leads one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies.

AstraZeneca makes drugs that treat cancer, cardiovascular diseases and neurological disorders.  It has more than 67,000 employees, annual revenues of more than $265 billion and research facilities in Westborough and Waltham.

Yesterday Brennan said that after years of creating life-changing pharmaceuticals, drug discovery has hit a plateau.

But, he added, AstraZeneca is forming many different partnerships and continues to look for that next big breakthrough drug.

When asked about Gov. Deval Patrick's plan to spend $1 billion to solidify the state's position as a leader in the life-sciences industry, Brennan applaued the move.

Mr. Brennan speaks with members of the press following the luncheon.


But he said Patrick's plan to attract life-science companies by offering economic incentive packages will work only if there are other reasons to establish a presence in the area.

"The local economic incentives play a part in the decision to expand," he said.  "But it has to be a done in a place where things come together."

Boston is one of those places, Brennan said, adding that London, where he is based, is looking to the Hub as a model as it develops its life-sciences industry.

Last year, the company luanched a $100 million expansion of its Waltham campus that will add about 100 jobs. 

Article by Christine McConville
Boston Herald
Wednesday, May 7, 2008