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Monday, April 30, 2007

Shame Shame Drug Game Part 1

Ah yes, the ultra-lucrative drug business. "Big pharma" and the third party healthcare providers have made an artform of keeping prices up. If I had a dollar for every time someone yelled at me about drug prices I would be richer than Bill Gates and Steve Jobs combined. I have no control over the prices. I am just a worker bee helping you to not kill yourself by taking the wrong med(s) and giving the wrong med(s) or doses to your precious little children (or your pet I am compounding for). I stick to the medical and sympathize with the price points. Perhaps if you paid with a "rewards" credit card and pay the bill off when it comes in at least you could get some enjoyment out of life...

The first game drug companies like to play is "We have this mega-great super-fantastic drug that is better than the one we put out 13 years ago!" So you made a slight change to drug "acid blocker" and duplicated the tests with "better" results and came up with the same side effect and drug interaction profiles. Not to mention that the "acid blocker" is going generic and OTC at about the same time and you stand to lose mucho dinero. So you use doctor prescribing incentives and "free" samples to get "mega acid blocker" on every prescription pad in the world. Don't forget contract pricing with third party insurance providers so you can screw the pharmacies that have to supply the public with "mega acid blocker" and try to pretend that the public will be healthier with a $50 copay when the generic OTC works just fine for 98% of patients at one-fourth of the price.

Another fun game is "This works better in extended release." Usually 12 to 14 years into the product life an extended release version is patented, approved and marketed. "Sleepy Time" has activity in the human body for 6 to 8 hours. The patent expiration date is coming up so we made "Sleepy Time CR." Not only are you sleeping longer but the "hangover" sure makes that morning commute fun! Did we really need "Sleepy Time CR?" Nope! For that matter you probably don't want to be on anything that makes you dependent on it to sleep.....the ace in the hole...once you start taking "Sleepy Time" you will always need to take "Sleepy Time." Oh no, now that "Sleepy Time" is available in the generic formulation maybe patients will lose interest in your new formula in order to save a significant amount of money on copays and avoid the messy "prior authorization" process to get the "Sleepy Time" in any form in the first place.

I know, you believe in the FDA. I used to until crap like this started happening. We need serious changes to the drug patent laws. The typical drug patent gives exclusive manufacturing rights to a drug for 17 years. I think that non-innovator drugs such as extended release or "altered and improved" products should only be given a patent of 5 years. With all the tax breaks the government gives there should not be any incentive to "beat the system to death with a stick" in order to make a fast buck.

6 comments:

vicodinfairy said...

One word. Sarafem. I actually had a drug bimbo tell me that it works differently than fluoxetine because "it works on, like, a totally different serotonin pathway." Whatever, Barbie. It's prettier...that's the only difference. That and it comes in 28 day packs so you get less drug for your brand copay. It has a sort of evil genius about it...wish I'd thought that up actually. Then I could be living large on my private island instead of floging myself in retail hell. Damn me and my ethics!

PS Also Wellbutrin SR and Zyban.

Dantech said...

You forgot about the brand drug manufacturers paying off generic drug manufacturers to keep them from coming out with generic versions of drugs.

Remember Clopidogrel? Now Apotex won't make that drug again until 2011.

RXJOE73 said...

Great post. I'm not sure how many people know this, but the original non-CR "Sleepy Time" tablets shot up in price by $100 per bottle (which is roughly a 33% price increase) between August 2006 and April 2007, which just so happens to coincide with the last few months of patent life on the original formulation. In specific dollar figures, the price went from about $3 to $4 in 8 months!! Oh, and the new "Sleepy Time CR" is priced at about $3 a pill!! This amazing price discrepancy must be due to the well-known fact that it is so much cheaper to produce a tablet with a slow-release mechanism, as compared to a plain old regular dissolving tablet. I hate these greedy bastards!!

FDPharmD said...

I AGREE...I almost crapped a brick a couple weeks ago when I got my shipment of Coreg CR...

I can see a slight advantage if you have something that is 3+ times per day and you can take it down to 1, but don't even get me started on Paxil and Paxil CR...what a wasted of my shelf space!

Anyone want some Xanax XR? How about some Ambien CR, Cipro XR, Augmentin XR???

Anyone want to get together with me, perhaps we can make allegra XR, Lunesta ER, Rozerem XR, Lisinopril CD, Zyprexa SR, and Norvasc XLS? There won't be any change to the medication we will just put some sort of special coating on it that does absolutely nothing and re-market everything and make a ton of money! We will be Completely Useless Medication Company...I wonder what acronym we could use for that??? oh well, we would make a killing!

Anonymous said...

Your acronym would be CUM co... very nice lol. Something I just don't get... aren't there laws in the US against price fixing? How on earth does this happen in the drug industry and it is suddenly okay?

RxIntern said...

Oh there are laws and regulations and various other pieces of gov BS. But there is the BIG PHARMA Lobby to deal with. When you have the biggest lobby in congress you can do just about anything.