POST SUMMARY: Big pharma companies continue to be defined by a myriad of external sources from Congress, questioning high drug prices, to seemingly unorthodox behavior like putting profits over patient safety as in the Boehringer Ingelheim Pradaxa case. However, biotech companies like Biogen continue to develop and market new drugs by tossing out the big pharma business models and focusing on patients.
In a letter to Gilead’s chief executive John Martin, Representatives Henry Waxman, Frank Pallone and Diana DeGette say the $84,000-per-course price tag for Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) is “likely to be too high for many patients, both those with public insurance and those with private insurance”. While the price of the drug seems very high we should remember that once a patient starts treatment there is a high probability they won’t need the drug again, Gilead is going to pay a nice rebate to the state of California in taxes on revenue from the drug and it is my understanding that public companies are based on the principle of capitalism. Also, lawmakers should compare the cost of using other treatments with the cost of Gilead’s new drug to determine the cost/benefit analysis.
Then there is the case of Boehringer Ingelheim who, it is alleged, didn’t disclose a data analysis to U.S. regulators that indicated the blood-thinner Pradaxa may have caused more fatal bleeding after it was cleared for sale than the drug did in a study used to win approval. Boehringer faces more than 2,000 suits involving Pradaxa, a treatment used to prevent strokes in patients who suffer from atrial fibrillation, a heart-rhythm disorder. Patients and their families contend in lawsuits that Boehringer executives knew Pradaxa posed a deadly risk to consumers when it won FDA approval in October 2010. More than 1,400 patients bled to death while taking the drug through Oct. 2, Clemens said in a deposition unsealed Feb. 19 as part of suits over the drug.
You don’t have too look far to find unflattering articles about the pharmaceutical industry. What was previously the domain of industry critics like Marcia Angell, Ray Moynihan and the newest entrant to the field, Ben Goldacre, has now grown to include popular television programs such as The Dr. Oz Show.
When Dr. Oz, who has over 4 million daily viewers, devotes the bulk of a show to “Four Secrets Drug Companies Don’t Want You To Know”, the industry has got a problem. When the industry has a banner year in 2012 with the FDA approving 39 new medicines, andan industry insider, Bernard Munos, minimizes this achievements saying that pharma is spending too much on too little output, it strains credibility. When prominent physicians publicize a letter sent to the White House urging enactment of a law to force public disclosure of pharma company payments to doctors, the industry suffers yet another black eye.
1) a lack of fair pricing policies leading to unseemly profits (50%);
2) a lack of transparency in all corporate activities (48%);
3) management of adverse event news (37%);
4) acting with integrity (32%).
I know it’s not fair, but as more people turn to the Internet for their news they are more likely to see news clips specific to their interests and if they have clicked on and read articles on bad pharma guess what their news feed is going to keep showing them?
In the meantime, we need to remind people that only 10% of every healthcare dollar goes to Rx drugs, that a majority of healthcare dollars go to preventable, lifestyle issues and that our health system is designed to treat conditions rather than patients. Insurers, for example, should mandate that overweight patients meet with a registered dietitian on a regular basis and be rewarded for key metrics like going to a gym or losing weight.