Pharma CEO’s can’t serve two masters


-Pharma CEO’s should not be evaluated on the company’s stock price alone.

-When Wall Street wins patients usually lose.

-Mr Merck was right, putting patients first will lead to profits.

The American medical system has stopped focusing on health or even science. Instead, it attends more or less single-mindedly to its own profits.  Insurers are shifting costs for some expensive drugs, including higher out-of-pocket prescription costs, higher copays, and skyrocketing premiums and deductibles. As a result, many Americans have seen their health care costs increase in the past year and in most cases erasing any salary increases they may have earned.

Yesterday, STAT news ran articles on the best and worst CEO’s within pharma that largely was based on company stock prices.   While I understand the basic principles of business one could make a very strong argument that pharmaceutical companies are not like most businesses.

How can anyone, for example, defend Gilead’s decision to price their Hep-C drug out of the reach of millions?  They didn’t use R&D to develop the drug, they bought it and are using the profit to buy more companies.  How can Lilly raise the price of insulin for diabetics over 200%? The answer can be found in the trade press.  When pharma reports good sales and profits Wall Street raves but when a new drug fails nobody thinks of patients, but rather they think if the impact of lost sales.

Now imagine if pharma actually treated patients like valued customers and really followed the fancy corporate statements in the lobby?   How do you think people would react to a health care company actually taking interest in them?

Biogen, not too long ago had a service that reached out to patients taking their MS drug, but patients told me in research that they felt it was more about ensuring they stayed on therapy (i.e. sales) than actually helping them.  In fact, it was contracted out.

While our health care system is focusing more on big data patients are saying “they want to be treated as individuals”.  Sure, there are a lot of excuses for not putting patients first but it’s time to tell Wall Street to take a back seat and prove that putting patients first is good business.