Thursday, December 06, 2007

Can Big Pharma Avoid the Looming Patent Meltdown?

An article in the Wall Street Journal made this dire prediction:
"Generic competition is expected to wipe $67 billion from top companies' annual U.S. sales between 2007 and 2012 as more than three dozen drugs lose patent protection. That is roughly half of the companies' combined 2007 U.S. sales (see "Big Pharma Faces Grim Prognosis").
It also points out two of the main tactics that the drug industry is using to overcome this crisis: (1) increased spending on R&D, which doesn't seem to be working (see, for example, "torcetrapib: '$800 Million' Failure but Kindler Safe" and "Exubera: A Titanic Failure! What the survivors are saying.") and (2) using lobbying and legal tactics to delay generics and prevent consumers from importing cheaper drugs from Canada.

Go After the High-Hanging Fruit?
Not mentioned were other tactics that I have discussed here and in Pharma Marketing News such as tackling the adherence problem. Drug industry marketers have always focused their energy on getting new prescriptions (low-hanging fruit) rather than preventing the loss of 50% of their current customers due to poor compliance and persistence (high-hanging fruit). Here are some ideas on improving that situation:
Another idea I had involves extending patents in exchange for a DTC moratorium. Read about this idea in this blog post: "Restrict DTC, but Extend the Patent for New Drugs." Weigh the loss of $67 billion against the questionable ROI of DTC -- drug companies would also save a bundle on advertising. Of course, this requires Congress to pass a new law. Hey, it could happen!

Pharma has also been encouraged to break away from the blockbuster model (see, for example, "The New Branding Model: From Blockbusters to Targeted Therapies").

Do You Have Any Ideas?
It seems that there are a lot of ideas out there and I haven't heard much of why these shouldn't be tried. Therefore, I invite all my readers to participate in an online forum I have set up to discuss these and other ideas on how the drug industry can avert the looming patent meltdown. Submit your ideas and comments here: "How can Big Pharma Avoid the Looming Patent Meltdown?"

1 comment:

  1. One good option would be to scrap patents alltogether - if the generics can make money then so can Big Pharma, all patents do is make the medicine more expensive for consumers. You can see it with the current generic drugs where the "brand name" drugs sell for more than the generics and still people buy more of them than the generic compeditors.

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