Is manufacturing the 'stepchild' of pharma?

When it comes to the pharma business, R&D is the rock star. It has groupies tracking its every move, and each bit of research news gets its moment--often many moments--in the spotlight. The workaday world of manufacturing isn't nearly so glamorous. Nor so well watched.

And that's exactly the problem, a Wall Street Journal analysis suggests. Just witness the recent spate of manufacturing woes. Genzyme's highly public problems are only one example. There's Johnson & Johnson with its series of consumer-drug recalls and an ugly FDA plant inspection report. There's Ranbaxy Laboratories, whose manufacturing-plant snafus prompted an FDA crackdown that's kept many of its generic meds out of the U.S. for months on end. And, as the WSJ points out, you also have Merck spending $1 billion to correct vaccine-manufacturing problems and GlaxoSmithKline's recent pledge to rework its Rotarix vaccine.

In fact, it may just be that top pharma executives take too much about manufacturing for granted. An ex-Pfizer manufacturing type--who now heads up the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Technology and Education--told the newspaper that managers who come up the ranks in R&D or marketing tend to look to manufacturing when it's time to cut costs. Executives "don't understand you need to spend money on manufacturing," Prabir Basu said. "That's why it's falling apart."

- read the WSJ piece