Pharmaceutical Industry Focuses On 'Blockbuster' Medications

Armen Hareyan's picture
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The Los Angeles Times on Sunday examined how the business"strategy that has made the pharmaceutical industry one of the wealthiestand most powerful on Earth" might have begun to "betray it."

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Pharmaceutical companies for 25 years have "imitated the basic businessmodel of Hollywood" and have "focused on creating blockbusters,"which they "hope will appeal to masses" and "promote likemad," according to the Times. Pharmaceutical companies mustspend as much as $1 billion to promote new medications in their first two yearson the market to make the products into a "mega-brand" with at least$1 billion in annual sales.

"Only now is it becoming clear that this business model couldn't workforever," as the strategy "had a flaw that executives have longignored" -- the approach "required extraordinary amounts of promotionat the expense of scientific creativity," the Times reports.During the next several years, pharmaceutical companies will lose patentprotection on a number of popular and profitable medications -- such as theosteoporosis treatment Fosamax, manufactured by Merck, theantipsychotic Risperdal, manufactured by Johnson &Johnson, and thecholesterol medication Lipitor, manufactured by Pfizer --and the "industry's scientists have hit a dry spell" and are"not discovering enough new drugs to replace the aging standbys," theTimes reports.

"It would be wrong to believe that this is the end of the industry's wealthand power," but, as some pharmaceutical companies "struggle, patientswill bear the brunt," with the prices of medications likely to "riseeven faster," according to the Times (Petersen, LosAngeles Times, 1/27).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.

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