August 11, 2009

Red pill vs Blue pill

One of my friends sent me this article from the Economist: Friends for Life - Big Drug Firms Embrace Generics
"If there’s a blue pill and a red pill, and the blue pill is half the price of the red pill and works just as well, why not pay half the price for the thing that’s going to make you well?" Thus Barack Obama captured one of two powerful global trends forcing pharmaceutical giants to look for a new business model.
The new model that they refer to incorporates smaller generic-drug producers into larger drug-name companies. Basically, providing "responsible" oversight in exchange for name-brand recognition with the original patent holder/drug producers.

My personal opinion is that drug companies should not be "for-profit" entities. Otherwise they put the company ahead of patient interests and defy responsible and ethical regulations. That's my Hippocratic bias and I guess stockholders should get some benefit of the doubt and perhaps they invest in drug companies for nobler reasons than "oooh, they've got a new great drug on the market for the next ten years that will rake in profits and give me a 7% return on my investment!" :-\

Pharm company takeovers of smaller generic producers is a good trend in my opinion! The thought of my local drug store buying generic drugs that turn out to be contaminated with lead or nephrotoxic chemicals terrifies me. It's been done with toys and dog food in China which has shown itself to be notoriously unreliable in its oversight relative to its ability to provide cheap labor and products.

It's funny that the drug companies are going to be providing oversight for these small generics companies (basically providing them with a reliable name) so they can continue making money. The next inevitable step will be in aggressive, large-multicenter, multinational studies in comparative-effectivness research that demonstrates benefits of certain drugs WITHIN a drug class that will provide them with future guaranteed profits if they happen to be the reliable producer of the best-name drug.

As a future physician, I will always choose "Obama's Blue Pill option." It is the obvious choice in his scenario... it's cheaper and just as good! Of course, Neo is seen reaching for the Red pill, so he's off to a harsher reality. So too with us, most likely.

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