Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pharma in the News

Two big stories this week about how pharmaceutical industries get doctors to prescribe their drug:

  • Some of the marketing plans of Forest Laboratories for their antidepressant Lexapro were made public. Their previous product, Celexa, which was approaching the end of its patent protection, contains a mixture of two mirror-image versions of the same molecule, while Lexapro contains only one. Generating a market for the newer, more expensive replacement, when it is so similar, takes a full-court "marketing" press. (See also this view from a pharmaceutical industry researcher at In the Pipeline.)
  • For a record $2.3 Billion, Pfizer settles charges about their marketing practices. There have been several previous finds of many hundreds of millions of dollars, but apparently they judged the profit potential to be worth the risk.
  • In a more encouraging report, the FDA says that 80% of a sample of postmarketing studies are proceeding on schedule. Since these studies include many more patients than those used for initial approval of drugs, they can uncover rare problems that were not statistically apparent in the original studies. Pharmaceutical companies have been criticized for dragging their feet on these studies, since they have little incentive to uncover new problems.

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