[FoRK] The real problem with Big Pharma....

Stephen D. Williams sdw
Sat Oct 29 18:30:41 PDT 2005

Ian Andrew Bell (FoRK) wrote:
> Sound like a terrible business to enter, to me.  Soak the people with 
> massive margins on successful product and everyone hates you.  Sell a 
> product that doesn't work and everyone hates you.  In both cases, drug 
> companies have been sued and become regulated into oblivion.  Pretty 
> much every company in the business has had success and failure on each 
> side of these, pretty much every company in the industry has been 
> exposed to the foils of consolidation by the failure or degradation of 
> profits from one or another individual product.  And given the 
> complexity of interaction, the pressure to produce new miracles on a 
> quarter-by-quarter basis, and the unrealistic expectations of people 
> that they can live forever despite not eating properly, not 
> exercising, sticking radiation-emitting devices in close proximity to 
> their brains, smoking, and fucking everything that moves... why 
> bother?  On a long enough line the only people making big dollars in 
> the pharma business are the lawyers, and of course the lobbyists (also 
> lawyers).
> One might conclude that it's not exactly a business that naturally 
> nurtures the profit motive; or that the people might be best served if 
> the R&D and distribution of miracles were performed and guided by the 
> voices of the collective, but hey that's just me.  I'm a little nuts 
> that way.
I think the pharma commerce situation could be greatly improved, but 
communism or socialism will not provide the competitiveness needed to 
drive new discoveries.  Any kind of overlord, central control, cabal, or 
other mastermind will prevent most of the innovation that will be 
needed.  The FDA borders on this, but they have added expedite processes 
for certain situations and show signs of awareness of their problems.  
The industry must be fully subject to the innovators dilemma, scientific 
maturity cycles where each generation of graybeards lose control as 
paradigms shift, and other similar effects.

 From my non-industry perspective, I would suggest limiting damages from 
side effects and other lawsuits (deliberate hiding is the only thing 
that should be punished; full transparency is full protection), 
increasing availability of clinical trial membership, and allowing more 
reliability of profit for long-cycle research.  Reliability in the sense 
that it's not fair for a drug to be in research for 15 years and have 
it's patent run out 5 years after hitting the market.  On the other 
hand, successful drug prices should not result in an astronomical 
payback on a few drugs while many are unfunded or financial failures.  
It seems like a sports-team like profit sharing system that pays for 
certain segments of research might be workable in the long run.

So, smooth out the market by limiting the big negatives (lawsuits) and 
runaway positives (super expensive medicine that everyone has to have) 
while increasing competition (partly by funding more independents, small 
labs, startups, and more projects in general).  There must be some 
analogy to the computer hardware industry.  Both industries have 
significant research costs, tooling costs, production startup, rapid 
turnover of ideas and technology, and lots of failures with small 
numbers of runaway successes.  The mixes of these are somewhat 
different, but the computer hardware industry seems far more healthy 
from survival, diversity, and innovation point of views.

Of course the interesting thing is that pharma is or will shortly be 
much more like the software industry.  In a sense, the research in 
pharma is like production in computer hardware while production in 
pharma is or will soon be more like software overall or design for 
hardware.  Some day we will have chemo-nano-replicators and ultra 
complete and sophisticated biochemical modeling and simulation with 
bioanalysis/sequencing peripherals.

> -Ian.
> On 29-Oct-05, at 11:32 AM, Albert S. wrote:
>> There is no denying that Big Pharma is having
>> problems. The PPH is down almost 50% over five years.
>> http://bigcharts.marketwatch.com/charts/big.chart?symb=pph&compidx=aaaaa%3A0&ma=0&maval=9&uf=0&lf=1&lf2=0&lf3=0&type=2&size=2&state=8&sid=166823&style=320&time=12&freq=1&comp=NO%5FSYMBOL%5FCHOSEN&nosettings=1&rand=2810&mocktick=1 
>> The real problem is not the importation of cheap drugs
>> from Canada, which by the way are getting less cheap
>> as the Canadian dollar has been rising dramatically
>> against the U.S. dollar. More precisely the U.S.
>> dollar is being flushed down the toilet with
>> profligate government spending, and loose monetary
>> policy. But, that's another story.
>> The real problem is cash cow drugs coming off patent
>> and the newer drugs blowing up with side effects and
>> efficacy problems. In the software industry if there
>> is a bug in software and peoples computers are
>> crashing, the company issues a patch and everything is
>> happiness and light. In the pharma industry if there
>> is a bug in the pillware and peoples bodies are
>> crashing, products are withdrawn from the market.
>> Albert
>> --- "Albert S." <albert.scherbinsky at rogers.com> wrote:
>>> When terrorists used airplanes to commit terrorist
>>> attacks within the United States, people around the
>>> world, _Not_Just_In_The_U.S._, became concerned and
>>> used air travel less.
>>> Assuming the novel even becomes popular, I'm sure
>>> that
>>> people are smart enough to realise that drugs can be
>>> poisoned no matter where they come from. One glance
>>> at
>>> the chart of the big pharma exchange traded fund
>>> (PPH)and one smells desperation.
>> http://bigcharts.marketwatch.com/intchart/frames/frames.asp?symb=pph
>>> --- Russell Turpin <deafbox at hotmail.com> wrote:
>>>> How do you convince Americans it's a bad idea
>>>> to buy cheap drugs from Canada? And legislators
>>>> to ban reimportation? If you're the Pharmaceutical
>>>> Research and Manufacturers of America, you
>>>> hire an author to write a suspense novel where
>>>> terrorists use reimported drugs as a way to poison
>>>> the nation. If this sounds like a bad joke, click
>>>> the link for the details.
>> http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-golden27oct27,1,784104.column?

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