Bruce Downey ’73 Doing His Part to Reduce Healthcare Costs
Growing up on a 200-acre farm, Bruce Downey now finds himself far from the rustic setting of Athens, Ohio. As chairman and CEO of Barr Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Bruce leads a company that stands on the cutting edge of the generic pharmaceutical market, and well positioned to be a leader in the emerging markets of generic versions of expensive biopharmaceutical products.
Bruce chose to attend Ohio State for law school over Northwestern because he was awarded a scholarship. He attributes his experience on the editorial board at the Law Journal as one of the experiences that best prepared him for his work as the chief executive of Barr Pharmaceuticals.
Bruce began his legal career in the Honors Program at the United States Department of Justice. He was assigned to the Civil Rights Division and he and his colleagues were assigned to various school desegregation cases. “I traveled from Alaska to Florida,” he says. One of his most memorable cases involved educators in the South. “We challenged the use of the national teacher’s examination in North and South Carolina,” he recalls.
After his time with the Justice Department, he moved on to the Department of Energy where he served as special litigation counsel. During his time in government service, Bruce received four awards for special achievement. He honed his litigation skills early in his career through these experiences. “Being able to try cases and obtaining hands-on experience so early in your career was valuable - you weren’t going to get that at a law firm,” he explains.
This practical experience paid off quickly. After his government service, he entered into private practice, founding his own law firm, Baller & Downey, where he and his colleagues concentrated on oil price-control litigation. Baller & Downey merged with Bishop, Cook, Purcell and Reynolds, and Bruce was named partner. Bishop, Cook eventually merged with Winston & Strawn, where Bruce became a capital partner in the firm. It was at Winston & Strawn that Bruce was first introduced to Barr and the pharmaceutical arena.
In 1992, Barr hired Bruce to defend the company against allegations of manufacturing and regulatory problems. Shortly after trial, Bruce was invited to join Barr as president and chief operating officer. He accepted the offer and a year later, he was appointed chairman and chief executive officer.
Barr Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a global specialty pharmaceutical company that operates in more than 30 countries worldwide and is engaged in the development, manufacture and marketing of generic and proprietary pharmaceuticals, biopharmaceuticals and active pharmaceutical ingredients. A holding company, Barr operates through its principal subsidiaries: Barr Laboratories, Inc., Duramed Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and PLIVA d.d. and its subsidiaries. The Barr Group of companies markets more than 120 generic and 25 proprietary products in the U.S. and more than 550 products globally outside of the U.S. Bruce characterizes his two positions with Barr. “The COO position was a ‘present-tense’ position – what will make you successful today. The CEO position is a ‘future-tense’ position – what will make you successful tomorrow,” he says.
Sensing that it could be difficult to solely rely on the competitive and unpredictable business of selling generic drugs, Barr has gained huge success by focusing its portfolio on generic products with barriers to entry, such as difficult products to formulate and patent challenges. “We challenge a patent if we think we can win,” says Bruce. “The decision to pursue a patent challenge is two-fold: first, you evaluate the strength of the patent and then, you determine if the patent is infringed.” However, a patent challenge can be a long and lengthy process. “We initiated the patent challenge for Prozac in 1995 and won in the court of appeals in 2002,” explains Bruce.
Bruce’s aggressive approach to generic pharmaceuticals will ensure
that Barr Pharmaceuticals remains at the top of its field. In years to
come, he believes, consumers will praise the company’s efforts to
provide more affordable pharmaceuticals in the midst of rising healthcare