How did Pharma get into the speeding wagon headed right for a patent cliff? A column in the Los Angeles Times contends that drug makers ended up in that Buster Keaton-like dilemma by imitating the Hollywood business model. To wit, the industry has put most of its eggs in the blockbuster basket, introducing mass-oriented drugs and marketing them with gusto.
And what's the problem with that? Well, says the paper, it gave R&D a back seat to marketing. Me-too drugs, like the sequels Hollywood loves so much, may make money, but they aren't innovative, and depending upon them helped stifle real innovation. Plus, Wall Street now watches new-drug launches just like Hollywood watches the opening box-office numbers--and the verdict on a drug comes almost as fast as the verdict on a film. The upshot is that early sales must be enormous, and so any safety problems with new meds end up affecting hundreds or thousands instead of just dozens.
Meanwhile, the industry is doing a little soul-searching of its own about marketing. A "backlash" against pharma sales and marketing is building, says one of the honchos at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA. The group wants its members to examine their marketing strategies, and it's asking patients, hospitals, docs, et al., for input. Will this lead to more self-regulation? And if so, will it quell the so-called backlash? We'll watch and wait.