Every week I write a brief editorial for my FierceHealthcare newsletter (and if you haven’t signed up yet, why not? It’s free and daily). Today’s was of course about last week’s Vioxx jury verdict. I may be an optimist but here goes:
This week’s news was dominated by last Friday’s verdict in the Vioxx case that was either a decisive blow against the evils of capitalism or the end of Western civilization as we know it, depending on your point of view. The Vioxx case is perhaps a sentinel event. It could be what’s needed to spur big Pharma, the FDA, the medical profession and the public into a new compact. In this new era everything that is known about a drug, pre-and post-market approval, would be tracked, reported publicly and analyzed, and the collusion between pharma and the FDA would need to end. The risks and rewards of taking these drugs would be clearly understood. Pharma would have to change their marketing dramatically (much more so than the minor restrictions on DTC) and accept lower profits and the public would have to accept that there are risks as well as magic in pill bottle, but that for some patients they’re worth taking. Physicians and pharmacists would have to spend much more time educating the public and themselves.
This grown up view about pharmaceuticals may not fit our needs for black and white outcomes, but it is in line with the "consumer" health care system we are moving towards. And if we don’t get there, the more likely future is restrictions on drug development and supply that will overall hurt patients, an over-cautious FDA, and grumpy big Pharma continuing to play dodgeball.