PHARMA: Vioxx–can we usher in a grown-up era?

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.

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5 replies »

  1. The Pain In Maine
    Matthew needs a place to record government corruption. This is just great, it’s reported:
    //The eHealthInsurance analysis reveals that nationwide between 36-44% of Health Savings Accounts s plan purchasers earning less than $50,000 annually were previously uninsured. Almost two-thirds of these individuals were paying less than $100 per person per month in premiums with no direct taxpayer subsidy.
    Conversely, the DirigoChoice premium is over $300 per person per month even with an average $157 a month in premium subsidies. A recent study done by the Muskie Institute reveals that DirigoChoice — which was implemented with the sole purpose of eliminating the uninsured population — has only enrolled 1,800 (22.4% of the current 8,100 enrollees) previously uninsured individuals. In addition, each DirigoChoice enrollee is costing Maine taxpayers an average of $1,884 a year in taxpayer-financed premium subsidies.//
    Anytime the government is involved with hard earned tax payer funds corruption abounds, it’s so predictable.

  2. gadfly,
    You ask, //””Why is the Health Care PAC money twice as much for Republicans as Democrats? Is it just because the incumbant is a Republican, or does the money always sort out that way?”//
    The Florida Democratic Party can’t get people to give them money anymore, that’s for sure. The IRS came in and seized their bank accounts for tax fraud because they were stealing their own employees’ FICA tax!!! When asked about the Democratic Party of Florida financial problems, Governor Jeb Bush summed it up with just one word – “Pathetic.” That’s why the Unions are breaking apart because they don’t want to give Democrats all of their money and then never get a winner and a seat at the table in D.C.. I can’t blame them.
    Matthew is right with, // 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.//
    The power of the consumer is being enhanced and empowered. Matthew is also correct that education is the key. The Doctors should be educating the consumer instead of the other way around. It’s funny how the future is unfolding.
    Reform isn’t coming, it’s already begun.

  3. I still think that it’s a mistake to assume innovation only results from vast infusions of cash, which means money is taken out of everyone’s pocket to be transferred to any company claiming to be in the business of “innovating”.
    Perhaps what we need is economists willing to consider alternative models, where people also innovate for social recognition for themselves or pride of their family/group/community, the advancement of civilization, to ameliorate human suffering, for the hope of eternal fame, etc.

  4. I completely agree about the importance of transparency, and the consumer-directed types should too. You can’t have a true market if you don’t have access to adequate information.
    OT: Matthew put up a post asking for recommendations for books on the US healthcare system to tide us over while we wait for Jonathan Cohn’s new book. Cohn showed up in the comments with a few recommendations of his own. I’ve been trying to search for the post, but it doesn’t come up under Cohn or publisher when I search. Can anyone provide a link?

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