Big Pharma’s Dilemma

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Making it … Without Big Pharma

By Patrick C. Cox; Jr.

[Pharma Section Editor]

How are we going to make it without Big Pharma?

An alarming question but a very real one we nonetheless might have to face over the next few years. Look, we’ve become accustomed to Big Pharma delivering that blockbuster drug just when we need it. With patience and strong research and development, somehow we’ve all felt the drug industry would be there for us in the end. Reality is starting to set in however.

Given today’s business climate and the pressures of recent economic downturns, one must begin to ask:

Can we count on Big Pharma to be there for us at the level we’ve come to expect?

The Need Exists

Healthcare needs and consumer pressures for blockbuster compounds are certainly still there. Who doesn’t feel a sigh of relief when news of FDA approval for a product personally affecting our family or us hits the streets? One would like to think that the drug industry is primed and eager to keep the launch engines of innovation rolling, but that’s easier said than done in today’s business environment. It’s the same economics we all face.

Generic Competition Heats Up

Faced with the need to keep a lid on costs while producing dividends to attract new shareholders, there’s also the growing threat from generics. Sales and marketing expenses continue to skyrocket as companies compete for physician, and HMO, brand loyalty and dwindling patient drug dollars. Pressures are greater than ever.

The Questions:

What’s Big Pharma to do to keep delivering? What adjustments to traditional business models will it have to make? How can the industry keep giving us what we need to improve and prolong our lives while it fights just to survive?


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4 Responses

  1. Merck Agrees to Multi-State Vioxx™ Settlement

    Did you know that Merck and Co., agreed to submit all new TV drug commercials to the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] for review before broadcast?

    The civil settlement ends a joint three-year investigation by 29 states and the District of Columbia into Merck’s advertising practices involving Vioxx™. The drug was taken off the market in 2004 after research showed it doubled the risk of heart attacks and strokes. That triggered thousands of lawsuits against Merck. A pending $4.85 billion settlement would end the bulk of those personal injury suits and related allegations, according to the Associated Press.

    Medical Executive-Post
    -Staff Reporters


  2. Doctors Cast Skeptical Eye on Pharma-Backed Studies

    Physicians are deeply suspicious of industry-funded randomized clinical trials, even when they are of high methodological rigor, according to recently published findings. The study, which appeared in the Sept. 20 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, comes amid efforts by leading pharmaceutical companies to close what they see as a “credibility gap” faced by industry-sponsored research.

    The study’s authors and other experts argue that high-profile controversies such as misleading and selectively reported trial data related to Merck’s Vioxx (rofecoxib) and GlaxoSmithKline’s Avandia (rosiglitazone) have made physicians more doubtful of pharma-sponsored studies.

    Source: Kevin B. O’Reilly, [10/8/12]


  3. Generics Saved Billions in 2014

    Last year, the U.S. healthcare system saved a record-breaking $254 billion by using generic instead of brand name drugs, according to a recent report in the American Journal of Managed Care. The figure is nearly $8 billion higher than the amount saved in 2013.

    The article, based on the Generic Pharmaceutical Association’s Generic Drug Savings in the United States reported that although 88% of drugs dispensed in the United States in 2014 were generic, generics accounted for just 28% of drug costs.

    Source: First Report Now [11/25/15]


  4. Majority of Physicians Accepted Pharma Payments in 2014

    ProPublica recently conducted an analysis on the relationship between physician prescribing practices and money received from pharmaceutical companies in 2014. Here are some key findings from the report:

    • Nearly 90% of cardiologists received payments from a drug or device company in 2014.
    • 7 in 10 internists and family practitioners received payments from a drug or device company in 2014.
    • Nationally, about 3 in 4 doctors across five common specialties received at least one payment in 2014.
    • Nevada has the highest proportion (90.3%) of doctors who received payments in 2014.
    • Internists who received no payments had an average brand-name prescribing rate of about 20%.
    • Internists who received more than $5,000/year prescribed brand-name drugs 30% of the time.

    Source: NPR, March 17, 2016


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