Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What's ailing Big Pharma

My friend and colleague Greg Critser has an opinion piece with this title in today's Los Angeles Times. Greg makes some important points about the morass that the pharmaceutical industry has gotten itself--and more importantly, the rest of us--into. Greg sez:

... Most of the drugs introduced to treat chronic disease over the last 20 years work for only about 50% of patients. So it's no surprise that pharmaceutical sales have tanked.

Pharma's troubles have been exacerbated by generic competition, which last year caused former cash cows Zoloft, Flonase and Ambien to post their worst returns ever. And future projections look even worse. As Bloomberg News Service recently reported, the world's pharmaceutical firms need to find replacements for $84 billion in sales now generated by products ending their patent life.

Yet if you ask the typical Pharma executive why sales are down, you get an alternative reality. The devil isn't in their drugs, it's in -- surprise -- onerous government regulation, penny-pinching insurers and, of course, that perennial boogeyman: healthcare reform. That's why they need to merge.

But the real problem, Greg says, is one that won't be solved by merger mania:

Why doesn't Pharma produce better drugs?

Read the rest, wise insights from the author of "Generation Rx," the book that asks the following excellent questions (taken from its listing on Barnes and Noble):

Greg Critser's brilliantly incisive Generation Rx moves the conversation about prescription drugs to where it hits home: our own bodies. How, he asks, has "big pharma" created a nation of pharmaceutical tribes, each with its own unique beliefs, taboos, and brand loyalties? How have powerful chemical compounds for chronic diseases, once controlled by physicians, become substances we feel entitled to, whether we need them or not? How did we come to hate drug companies but love their pills?

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