The White House had Roy Vagelos booted off a health-care discussion panel on Dec. 13, Bill Clinton's latest rebuff to the Merck chief executive. The drug industry is one of the President's whipping boys on health-care reform, and Vagelos criticizes Clinton's planned drug-pricing restraints--so the Merck honcho is persona non grata to the Clintonites. Vagelos, an ardent 1992 Clinton supporter, tried to discuss the health issue with the President earlier this year, but Clinton wouldn't return his calls.
Vagelos was supposed to share the dais with Clinton during a daylong entitlements symposium outside Philadelphia, partly funded by $25,000 from Merck. Then, the White House had the event's nonprofit sponsor eject him and two smaller companies' execs, saying that corporate donations made their participation look improper. Vagelos and the White House declined to comment.