Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
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Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
Pharmaguy curates and provides insights into selected drug industry news and issues.
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The "Big Pharma" Game Tackles Ethical Issues of Drug Industry

The "Big Pharma" Game Tackles Ethical Issues of Drug Industry | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

Tim Wicksteed says his goal in developing the PC game Big Pharma is "to fairly portray both the people who work in this industry as well as those who are hurt by it."


According to Wicksteed, at the heart of Big Pharma, is the question, "are the goals of running a profitable business ethically compatible with the goal of making people healthy -- We don't try to answer the question, just ask it."

In the pharmaceutical business, says Wicksteed, major clinical trials to prove the safety and efficacy of drugs don't have to be published if the drug manufacturer, which sponsors the study, doesn't like the results. The industry's patent systems let companies maintain monopolies on particular treatments for up to 20 years -- "during which they can effectively hold the lives of patients to ransom, charging them whatever they want," says Wicksteed.

"Then you have the moral grey areas which result when you try to align the goals of running a profitable business with those of making people healthy," Wicksteed explains. "Life-saving drugs are shunned in favor of ones which treat (but importantly do not cure) chronic illnesses; companies are incentivized to simply copy their competitors and tweak the formulas rather than create new cures; and treatments for rich Westerners are prioritized over those sorely needed by the poorest communities around the world."

"These last ones are some of my favorites because they sound horrific but strangely understandable," he continues. "If you think about these companies on a human scale, you can imagine the people working for them, under intense pressure from their boss to hit their targets, and when you put yourself in their shoes can you really, I mean really say you would do things differently? That's the question Big Pharma asks of its players."

In the game, players can run clinical trials with "gagging clauses" in place which allow them to pull results or stop trials early to exploit statistical anomalies that make their drug look good. Players and AI competitors race for patents that lead to market monopolies, but can also evade patents through subtle formula tweaks. Players can also change the strength of drugs so that they alleviate symptoms but don't eliminate causes, meaning lower revenue per product -- but demand is maintained.


"One of the more interesting learning outcomes should come from the scenario editor. This will allow players to tweak the parameters of the simulation and then play a game to see their effect," he adds. "Imagine a world where pharma companies were taxed heavily but grants given to incentivize new research. Or one where gagging clauses are banned by law. In Big Pharma you can see the effects these policies might have for yourself."

Pharma Guy's insight:


Hmmm...Now that I know the details of play, this game looks a lot more interesting than when I first heard of it (see here). The goal of this game is quite different than SYRUM, a Facebook game developed by a drug company (see BI to Launch Beta Version of its Syrum FaceBook Game on September 13, 2012). The objective of Syrum is to "save the world, one disease at a time, by harvesting molecules (a little like Farmville) and then using them as trading cards to play against diseases (a little like Pokemon). A player must first investigate molecular compounds at a research desk before putting them to the test in the laboratory, then conduct clinical trials and, if successful, advance a treatment to market"


As of this date (24 Oct 2014), Syrum has not been launched in the U.S. 

 

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Announcing Big Pharma! Another Game: Run your own pharmaceutical empire

Announcing Big Pharma! Another Game: Run your own pharmaceutical empire | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

What is Big Pharma?

Big Pharma is a Tycoon game all about running your own pharmaceutical empire.


Buy ingredients, process and combine them in meticulously designed production lines, convert them into finished pills, creams, syringes and more, and finally sell them for a profit.


Spend your hard earned cash to research new machines and technology that will improve the efficiency of your production lines. Up your expedition spending to discover new ingredients containing new active compounds and combine them to create higher value, even fancier medicine.


At its core, Big Pharma is a really tight puzzle game about managing production lines. I’ve taken this core gameplay and set it against the backdrop of the pharmaceutical industry, which adds all sorts of lovely complications and opportunities to explore.


First of all, you’re not the only company competing in this market. All drug prices are affected by supply and demand, so unless you’ve got a patent to protect your fantastic formulas you can expect those selling prices to fall pretty sharply.


Next you’ve got to deal with the changing seasons and demands that go with each product. Cold and flu medicine will sell like hot cakes in the winter but you’d better have another product up your sleeve come summer time or you’re likely to hit some serious cash flow problems.


Another subtlety of the pharmaceutical industry I’m looking to explore is the fact that the most important cures aren’t necessarily the ones that will make a lot of profit. Cures that pander towards the whims of western countries will normally be able to sustain higher prices while the vaccine that is urgently needed by millions of people in developing nations won’t sell for more than a few pennies each. If you only had space on your factory floor for one, which would you produce?

Pharma Guy's insight:


Will this game be any more "successful" than SYRUM, a Facebook game created by Boehringer Ingelheim. SYRUM was never released in the U.S. For more on that read Is Pharma "Gamification" Dead in the Water?

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Is Pharma "Gamification" Dead in the Water?

Is Pharma "Gamification" Dead in the Water? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News | Scoop.it

"Gamification" was a buzz word flitting around pharma circles (but not Google+ circles) a year or two ago. As an example, everyone I know in Pharma Twitterdom was enamored by the launch of Boehringer Ingelheim's SYRUM FaceBook game, launched in September, 2012, but ONLY to European users (see here and here).

We here in the U.S. -- BI's largest market -- are still waiting for SYRUM. BI's John Pugh -- Director of Digital Communications and the developer of SYRUM -- promised it would be launched in the U.S. sometime in 2013. There's still a chance of this happening, I suppose. But I would very surprised if it does. In the small world of pharma watchers and waiters, it's akin to waiting for FDA's Internet/social media guidelines.


The delay is disappointing, of course, but it also sends a message to other pharma companies, which is "this may be harder than we thought and probably is not worth the effort."

Pharma Guy's insight:


Not dead yet! Read this: Announcing Big Pharma - Another Game: Run Your Own Pharmaceutical Empire

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