2. March 2012 10:46
The rise in the generics market and the controversy over NICE’s alleged ‘bias’ against expensive new drugs are both signs that the recession is back and pharma is feeling the pressure. Non-generic blogger Maxine Vaccine asks whether the industry can stand the strain.
It’s been a hard month for the pharma industry. February is supposed to be about roses and champagne, but this year it was about closures and real pain. With Merck and AZ announcing job cutbacks and the generics market showing a marked increase, “you’re something special” is not something the industry or its representatives have heard much lately.
Generics are the drug industry’s equivalent of cover versions and remakes: the market is guaranteed and the overheads are low, what’s not to love? Well, frankly, what you save on R&D costs you lose on innovation credibility and the chance to make a medical impact. Even Shlomo Yanai is saying generics aren’t really where it’s at for his company – so it’s official: hitching a ride on patent expiry isn’t big and it isn’t Teva.
But with The X Factor churning out clones like there’s no tomorrow for the music industry (and that’s mostly because there isn’t), the day of the generic has come regardless of whether the industry feels good about it. Where respectable generic manufacturers aim at brand credibility and value-based pricing, some murky (but not Mercky) company in an obscure location will undercut them with cheap and nasty substitutes that have invaded the local formulary before you can say ‘austerity’. Think of it as payback for the CIA.
And as for counterfeit high-cost cancer drugs allegedly being made in Turkey and sold on to Egypt, then to Denmark, to Switzerland, to the UK and finally to clinics and pharmacies in the US... I may be wrong – I thought we said it couldn’t happen here? Face. Bothered? Yes.
And back home, we’ve got the two Sir Andrews – Witty and Dillon – squaring up like the ‘History Today’ professors over NICE’s alleged message to GPs: New cancer drugs? Just say no. Behind the polite sparring, the underlying sarcasm is unmistakeable. Both parties are saying: See that person who wouldn’t know value-based pricing if it wore a T-shirt saying ‘Here comes VBP’? That’s you, that is. But who sent who the Twitter message Back off or we’ll form a committee to modernise your face, our sources have been unable to determine.
After years of horrible fashions we’re about due another Mod revival. That underrated movement had the slogan Clean living in difficult times. That’s something we should all aspire to. In an ugly world, having (and deserving) a good reputation is vital.
Maxine’s views are not necessarily those of Pharmaceutical Field.