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This weekly column offers opinions on the latest pharmaceutical industry news.

The pharmaceutical industry wants you to know that it’s not “getting away with murder.”

That was the accusation leveled by President Trump two weeks ago, and it stunned industry executives, who were already on the defensive after sustained and increasingly harsh criticism of drug prices that has lowered their reputation among consumers and politicians.

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  • Claiming Big Pharma is “the crown jewel of our economy” goes hand-in-hand with the egregious greed and inflated ego of this Wall Street-based industry. This has only been exacerbated as evidenced by the proliferation of the whore vulture venture capitalists wanting to get in on picking the bones of the taxpayer by purchasing old drugs and bumping their prices.

    Actually, Boeing remains the crown jewel of our economy, relying on the taxpayer-funded Export Import Bank to facilitate sales of its planes around the world, including to very wealthy Gulf countries. Conservatives call that “crony capitalism;” yet, where are they not to demand Big Pharma equate its prices and profits in the US to what is allowed elsewhere in the world–UK, EU, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand?

    Wasting taxpayer dollars on their advertising (as it is tax deductible business expense), marketing, and lobbyists is obviously the greatest expense for Big Pharma. Any ad campaign will sound more like one for the Zeppelin Company in the 1930s unsuccessful in its attempt to demur its Nazi funding.

    Attacking with pitchforks and lanterns the castles on the mountaintop where Big Pharma resides in a populist drive by President Trump would reverberate around the world. The time has come to dramatically change the business model of Big Pharma, as based on lobbying and marketing. We need to show we can still take care of our people by reigning in the excessive abuse of an out of control industry so dependent upon how 50% of its profits here are derived from taxpayer funded programs (Medicare, Medicaid, VA).

    • Guess you never heard of Golden Age of pharmaceutical industry that produced drugs that will keep you bloviating a few more years. Under your theories we should sell our IBM stock cause they once worked with Hitler. I worked for a German chemical company that 50 years ago been part of the Nazi war machine. I have a nice pension that I don’t plan to return. You self righteous people give me diarrhea.

  • I think the following also applies to the dozens of R&D people I’ve worked with since 1983. The reality is that none or few of us have actually met the patients we have developed drugs for. Hence my “don’t care” analogy. There is a music club near my residence that I often attend, although the owner is not particularly friendly. I go to hear great music, not to schmooze the owner. Sorry to break the news, and notwithstanding the gauzy commercials, Pharma folks don’t really care about saving their reputation. It’s never been in any of our job descriptions that I’ve read or written. We are not car salesman that have to wear happy face stickers. We don’t come in contact with our “patients” hence the reputation to be “saved” is a highly abstract concept, and more subject of cocktail conversation than anything else.

  • A serious reason for our disapproval of PHRMA is their preference for QALY based pricing rather than cost based pricing. The expected benefit in terms of quality-adjusted life years is a disingenuous basis for pricing. Do physicians do that? No. Do surgeons do that? No. So why do we allow PHRMA to get away with that?

    • Managed care has solved the quality issue with surgeons. That means the meatball surgeon who does an appendectomy with complications will be compensated the same as a surgeon who performs an uncomplicated procedure. In fact the mediocre surgeon may make more money when he knicks your cecum, causing massive peritonitis and a two week stint in the ICU. If he hasn’t been replaced by a hospitalist his cash register will light up every time he sees you in the hospital and writes a six word progress note on the chart.

  • The problem being, of course, when you start out with drug prices too high for the average consumer, your “sacrifice” of only raising the prices an additional 10% is much too little, way too late. Perhaps the industry would be better off reputation-wise if they instituted a multi-year moratorium on raising prices until executive compensation is better under control?

  • …less than 10% increase! What unparalleled sacrifice! Forgetting for a moment that the advertising campaign is part of the business expense – so we wind up trying to watch the evening news through a forest of side effects, and now a tsunami of self-congratulatory hype, that we wind up paying for? Not a bad business model because at the same time it’s driving my blood pressure through the roof.

  • Pharma CEOs are deluding themselves by arguing that patients don’t understand the value of their drugs. Patients are not dumb. They get it. But patients who must choose between their insulin and food for the kids have a different notion of value.

  • The day biotech, pharmaceutical, medical companies invited the world of marketing and business into their sphere, they have lost the ability to wave the noble profession of helping the sick banner, and have turned into jackals. When drugs are marketed to the public directly that was a red line crossed. When these companies became more about making money, IPO’s, corporate business models, they are now looked on with the same suspicion as a car salesman. They have become corrupted, greedy, gouging, opportunistic in a field that demands true benevolence, compassionate caring, and people over profits. Now those characteristics that defined an industry have been used as propaganda for the saps who still believe it to be true. This is all about “Show Me The Money!” For shame.

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