How The Obsession With Lifestyle Drugs Could Be Big Pharma's Undoing

from the the-blue-pill dept

It seems to be the nature of highly random, hit-driven industries that they become overly infatuated with sequels. The film industry is the most obvious example of this, as every successful film is seen as a possible franchise to be exploited through endless iterations of the initial version. The other big industry that operates on this model is the pharmaceutical industry, which is analogous to Hollywood in several ways. In the 90s, the big pharmaceutical players soared on the backs of so-called lifestyle drugs (Viagra being the most well-known), and since then, these firms have tried to extend that success by doubling down on similar products. But the industry is facing a problem, as many of its most promising drugs have come under increasing FDA scrutiny due to complications and side effects. While the side effects in many of these cases seem rare, the FDA is taking a strict stance, because the underlying condition that's being treated is not seen as particularly serious. A drug that targets cancer or AIDS is given leeway in terms of negative side-effects that is not afforded to a drug targeting weight loss. But because these companies need blockbusters to keep justify their market caps, and because lifestyle drugs are seen as the most likely candidates to become blockbusters, the industry has cornered itself by investing in pills that have a very difficult time clearing regulatory hurdles. As in other industries, the more promising areas of the pharmaceutical space are in the "long tail", which is currently occupied by a multitude of niche biotechs. However, since these large firms feel that they can't maintain their size by selling drugs to narrow segments of the population, they're not at all position to take advantage of these opportunities.


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  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2007 @ 6:38pm

    Greed kills. In this case it's sometimes the customer, and sometimes the stock price.
    One thing you can be sure of - the top executives won't lose any sleep (or money) in either case.

     

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  2.  
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    joe, Jun 18th, 2007 @ 7:16pm

    Caffeine, THC, and Alcohol are my lifestyle drugs.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2007 @ 7:31pm

    And the Dr. always asks why

    Invariably when I go to the doc, the topic of a prescription (that I need to take for the rest of my life) comes up, and they wonder why I always tell them not to bother because I won't take it. These hidden side effects are the exact reason.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    dorpus, Jun 18th, 2007 @ 7:52pm

    Ignorance=Profit

    It's a win-win situation for big pharma, the way I see it. If big pharmas receive bad publicity, then they can make more "natural herb supplements" using shell companies to profit from a population fanatically opposed to "medicine". Coca Cola has jumped into the act with its poisonous "vitamin enhanced" sodas, which the public thinks is "healthy".

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Haywood, Jun 18th, 2007 @ 7:52pm

    Re: And the Dr. always asks why

    Same here, I have a pacemaker, so I'm trapped into see a doctor for routine battery checks, but he always attempts to push some pills. I've tried to be polite, but the last time I went a little ballistic, no means no.

     

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  6.  
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    Overcast, Jun 18th, 2007 @ 8:37pm

    One pill makes you larger.... and one pill makes you small..

    Caffeine, THC, and Alcohol are my lifestyle drugs.

    Yeah.. and the whole reason THC in it's natural form is illegal is because of the drug companies - they couldn't deal with a painkiller with less damaging side effects than anything they make. Plus, it's hard to tax something you can grow just about anywhere.

    I avoid just about any pill I can - although I know on occasion there's use for them, but they are so over-used anymore. The real problem is prescription drug problems, not pot.

    Someone I know had a bad substance abuse problem - the doctor's gave him some pill to 'help' - I said to the family - how is it possible to treat a substance abuse problem with another substance? You're telling that person that it's ok to use...

    And since that's been discontined - he's actually made progress.

     

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  7.  
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    trippinlikegod, Jun 18th, 2007 @ 8:44pm

    type

    "keep justify their market caps"

    keep justifying their market caps me thinks

     

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  8.  
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    Charles Griswold, Jun 18th, 2007 @ 9:12pm

    Re:

    Yeah.. and the whole reason THC in it's natural form is illegal is because of the drug companies - they couldn't deal with a painkiller with less damaging side effects than anything they make. Plus, it's hard to tax something you can grow just about anywhere.
    Here's one take on why hemp/marijuana is illegal. It certainly is a plausible theory, and CRRH is not the only place I've seen it.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2007 @ 9:39pm

    I refuse to take 'maintenance' drugs. Cure me or leave me alone. I don't want your side effects or to be a slave to your half-cure for the rest of my life.

    As for lifestyle drugs, they do deserve more scrutiny because of the way they are marketed - in the same way Over The Counter drugs are. Consumers expect safety.

    What concerns me is the pharmaceutical industry constantly telling us they have to charge so much for their drugs so they can research and develop new ones.

    Huh?

    Where are the cures?

    Why are they re-investing in lifestyle drugs, not cures for diseases?

    They are being caught in their own lies - it's all about profits - not people.

     

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  10.  
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    The infamous Joe, Jun 19th, 2007 @ 4:00am

    Let it ride.

    and because lifestyle drugs are seen as the most likely candidates to become blockbusters

    I dunno, man.. I think a cure for AIDS or cancer might be considered a 'blockbuster'. :P

    Cure me or leave me alone. I don't want your side effects or to be a slave to your half-cure for the rest of my life.

    If they cure you then you don't have to buy their drugs anymore. I'm not a big believer in conspiracies, but I am a big believer in greed-- they'll never invest money into something that causes the consumer to not require their services anymore-- that's bad business. ;)

     

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  11.  
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    shakir akbari, Jun 19th, 2007 @ 5:32am

    mark up on prescription drugs

    if you have a moment take a look at the mark-up on prescription drugs in the states - here is sampling:

    Celebrex 100 mg
    Consumer price (100 tablets): $130.27
    Cost of general active ingredients: $0.60
    Percent markup: 21,712%

    Claritin 10 mg
    Consumer Price (100 tablets): $215.17
    Cost of general active ingredients: $0.71
    Percent markup: 30,306%

    Lipitor 20 mg
    Consumer Price (100 tablets): $272.37
    Cost of general active ingredients: $5.80
    Percent markup: 4,696%

    Norvasec 10 mg
    Consumer price (100 tablets): $188.29
    Cost of general active ingredients: $0.14
    Percent markup: 134,493%

    Paxil 20 mg
    Consumer price (100 tablets): $220.27
    Cost of general active ingredients: $7.60
    Percent markup: 2,898%

    Prevacid 30 mg
    Consumer price (100 tablets): $44.77
    Cost of general active ingredients: $1.01
    Percent markup: 34,136%

    Prozac 20 mg
    Consumer price (100 tablets) : $247.47
    Cost of general active ingredients: $0.11
    Percent markup: 224,973%

    Xanax 1 mg
    Consumer price (100 tablets) : $136.79
    Cost of general active ingredients: $0.024
    Percent markup: 569,958%

    Zithromax 600 mg
    Consumer price (100 tablets): $1,482.19
    Cost of general active ingredients: $18.78
    Percent markup: 7,892%


    Zoloft 50 mg
    Consumer price: $206.87
    Cost of general active ingredients: $1.75
    Percent markup: 11,821%

    i hope the stats speak for themselves - you can justify the market capitilisation but how to you justify systematic abuse of a closed market (i.e. if the states had public health care would you or your insurance company (whom you pay) still be paying these prices?) I think that the drugs/medicine might just be a bit cheaper if there was pressure from the goverment to push down prices, say like in Canada for example.

    for further consiracy implications see http://www.theyrule.net/ and search for the board of directors of the big drug companies and then check out what other positions they hold...

     

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  12.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Jun 19th, 2007 @ 5:33am

    Re: Let it ride.

    you countered your own argument there.

    "I think a cure for AIDS or cancer might be considered a 'blockbuster'"
    "they'll never invest money into something that causes the consumer to not require their services anymore"

    That's one of the prevailing theories about why the cures haven't been released yet. (Tin hat time)

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    ., Jun 19th, 2007 @ 6:48am

    "I refuse to take 'maintenance' drugs. Cure me or leave me alone. I don't want your side effects or to be a slave to your half-cure for the rest of my life."


    Hope you aren't diabetic. It would suck having your legs amputated or slowly go blind as your capillaries die off.

    Hope you aren't hypertensive and suffer a stroke or heart attack because you refused to treat your condition.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    yf35, Jun 19th, 2007 @ 6:49am

    of course it's about profit, but ...

    It's a giant guessing game.

    I'm sure (and I work in the industry, but not as a part of pharma)there is no diabolical evil greedy genius running the forcing the R&D for all of pharma to stop them from making vaccines and curing diseases. Truth is that cures are hard to come buy, and there is no such thing as a cure of cancer, just treatments for each type (and there are tons of variations)

    Regardless, more and more pharma is licensing their drugs from small biotechs (who make whatever they want to) and such for very often far more than they are worth (if the drug even makes it through trials and to the market)

    At this point I think they're just running scared and most people just want to keep their jobs, pensions, etc. They see their pipelines, and they see what is going off patent and for almost all of pharma this is bad news.

    Before judging the evil anti-saving people pharma, take a look at their pipelines and what they are developing - cancer vaccines and immunotherapies are tops in almost all of them.

    Many experts see the big-pharma/blockbuster business model as increasingly outdated. Pfizer has already begun to completely overall and streamline its business to account for this (the failure of Torcetrapip in phase III trials sped this process as well).

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    ., Jun 19th, 2007 @ 6:56am

    "If they cure you then you don't have to buy their drugs anymore. I'm not a big believer in conspiracies, but I am a big believer in greed-- they'll never invest money into something that causes the consumer to not require their services anymore-- that's bad business. ;)"

    That certainly explains the investment in antibiotics, doesn't it?

    The "greed = no cure" theory is fairly weak once you actually examine some real reasons why some diseases have no "cure". We don't yet understand all the contributing factors for diseases like type II diabetes and idiopathic hypertension so it only makes sense that we have no "cure". What we do have right now is medication that can reduce the symptoms of these diseases, reduce morbidity and increase longetivity and improve quality of life when lifestyle changes aren't enough to keep symptoms in check.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    not smokin, Jun 19th, 2007 @ 7:37am

    Re: Re:

    FYI, pot isn't illegal because of pharma companies, it's illegal thanks to your lawmakers. Pharmas can't TAX anything.What planet do you live on? Drug companies aren't conspiring against your pot smoking- they would sell it too if it was legalized, don't kid yourself. Thank your government.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    The infamous Joe, Jun 19th, 2007 @ 9:25am

    Dot marks the mark.

    you countered your own argument there.

    The ':P' indicated that I was being less than literal. As did the quotes around blockbuster.

    We don't yet understand all the contributing factors for diseases like type II diabetes and idiopathic hypertension so it only makes sense that we have no "cure".

    ...and to follow through on that statement, a lot less money would be dedicated to researching 'all the contributing factors' and a lot more money into treatments of the symptoms. I'm not saying they don't want to ease pain and allow people to live normal lives, I'm just saying that they probably don't want to let it happen without taking their medicine for the rest of your life.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    bgalls, Jun 19th, 2007 @ 9:56am

    Re: Re: And the Dr. always asks why

    Well that's just silly. You have a pacemaker, man. Start listening to your doctor.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    bgalls, Jun 19th, 2007 @ 10:00am

    Re: Re: Let it ride.

    "You they gonna find a cure for AIDS when they havent found a cure for Athelete's Foot?" -- Chris Rock

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous of Course, Jun 19th, 2007 @ 11:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Let it ride.

    And as mister Lilley once said "A drug without any side effects isn't much of a drug."

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Mischa, Jun 19th, 2007 @ 6:01pm

    Re:

    Unfortunately there is no cure for asthma. Since I prefer to breathe I'm going to keep taking my 'maintenance' drugs. :-)

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    ., Jun 20th, 2007 @ 3:48am

    Re: mark up on prescription drugs

    Unfortunately many of your prices are outdated. Claritin, Paxil and Prozac have generics that sell for $4 for a months supply at walmart. Generics for Zoloft, Zithromax, Xanax, and Norvasc cost a fraction of your listed brand name prices.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 2:25pm

    Re: And the Dr. always asks why

    You are correct for doing this. Most of the "standards" by which doctors now push these drugs have been lowered so low that you would have to be superman to fit into the standard levels.

    Blood pressure used to be "high" if it was 160/90 now its "high" if its 138/82 (Yes, that is the standard my office starts people on a LIFETIME of bp pills at)

     

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