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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A Canadian Strikes Back Against Pfizer CEO Read Regarding Who Innovated What First

A Canadian Strikes Back Against Pfizer CEO Read Regarding Who Innovated What First | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Last week in Washington, DC, a luncheon at the National Press Club Ballroom was the scene of a unique treat, as members of the US media were on hand to sample the steak salad and crab cake sandwiches and to rake Ian Read, CEO of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, over the coals.


One of the “stewards of the drug industry,” Read was on hand to defend his company’s practices (price gouging, political lobbying, etc.) and to spread the gospel of good will from Big Pharma. And to take some pot shots at Canada along the way.


For over an hour, Read spoke of the challenges faced by pharmaceutical companies in bringing a new drug to market, insisting that research and development are costly endeavours and that without charging the high fees they do for drugs (he’d call it citizen-funded investment in medical innovation, you may have different names for it), advances in healthcare just wouldn’t happen.


The messaging continued through until near the end of the Q & A when the topic of international trade agreements came up. “We didn’t support [the Trump-scuppered] Trans Pacific Partnership because it was really bad for our intellectual property,” said Read. “Most of these countries, if you look at Canada, if you look at Australia, if you look at New Zealand, all highly developed countries, all free-riding on inventions in the United States” (read “Ian Read, CEO of Pfizer, aka the “Donald Trump of Pharma,” Bashes Global “Freeloading” Off U.S.”; )


Read drove the point home by saying, “Canada is cheaper because of [drug] ration[ing]. And Canada is cheaper because it can, because it free-rides off American innovation.”


The claim has been made before. The idea goes that citizens in countries with universal healthcare pay less for drugs than they do in the US because the governments of Canada, New Zealand and Australia constrain drug companies from charging the full monty for their products. Thus, the poor pharma companies have to make do with less profits in the rest of the world and consequently must rifle all the more vigorously through the pockets of American citizens in order to pay for their R&D.


Freeloaders, Mr. Read? Freeloaders on American innovation! I’m no Einstein, but I think you might have it a little ass backwards, dude. Do you like that smart phone in your pocket, Mr. American businessman? I’d say you owe us and the folks at BlackBerry for that one. The old-fashioned telephone, too, you might remember, was made by a Canadian/Scotsman.


Thomas Edison may get the credit for the light bulb, Mr. Read, but he bought the patent from a couple of Canadians by the name of Woodward and Evans. More co-opting of Canadian ingenuity, the inventor of the AM radio broadcast was Reginald Fessenden, another Canadian trying to make a living down in the States.

Who invented the Java programming language? James Gosling from Calgary. Who invented both the alkaline and lithium batteries? Chemical engineer Lewis Urry from little Pontypool, Ontario. IMAX technology? A Canadian team.


Yes, Mr. Read, some of our inventions may seem a bit pedestrian to you big city types. The paint roller, for one, and instant mashed potatoes. Five pin bowling. But no one can say we aren’t crafty with our surroundings, to wit, the snowblower, the ski-doo, instant replay and the hockey mask.


Finally, allow me to step into your sandbox, Mr. Pfizer, and say one word: insulin.


Now, with that fully out of our systems, let us return to the broader thesis that research and development carried out by pharmaceutical companies requires proper financial investment by countries and their drug-consuming, over-a-barrel citizens.


“Overall, I think it’s fair to say that we’re being responsible when it comes to the pricing of our medicines,” said Read. “We’re producing great value for society and simultaneously taking large financial risks due to the uncertainty of the drug.”


In any given year, companies like Pfizer spend more on sales and marketing of their drugs than on research and development. From 2013, for example, Pfizer spent $6.6 billion on R&D and $11.4 billion on sales and marketing. The same year, Johnson & Johnson spent $8.2 billion on R&D and $17.5 billion on marketing.


That $6.6 billion spent on R&D seems a lot less impressive when stacked up against $22 billion in profit — and, consequently, the whole argument that high drug costs are necessary for innovation seems a whole lot of nonsense…


And yet there he was, blaming Canada and calling it “commercial blackmail” when governments (“monopoly-purchasing governments,” he says) have the audacity to set prices for his drugs. There he was chastising Canada and attacking our government’s utter gall in considering its citizens’ interests, their health and their livelihoods when deciding on drug prices. And calling us a country of innovation freeloaders, to boot!

Before pondering that some more, I think I’ll zip up the ol’ parka, jump on my snowmobile and head to the bar for a Bloody Caesar. Maybe get a butter tart, too.

Pharma Guy's insight:

You go Canada! BTW, you forgot to include Trailer Park Boys!

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Bernie to Trump: “Talk is Cheap.” Stand Up to Big Pharma! Support Importing Drugs from Canada!

Bernie to Trump: “Talk is Cheap.” Stand Up to Big Pharma! Support Importing Drugs from Canada! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

President Trump and other Republicans have talked about the greed of the pharmaceutical industry. Recently, Trump said (rightly) that Big Pharma is “getting away with murder.” But talk is cheap. The question is: Will Republicans really have the guts to join me and many of my colleagues in standing up to the drug companies to fight for American consumers and end the disgrace of having our country pay by far the highest prescription drug prices in the world? If Trump believes what he has said about the industry, he will rally his party to help save American lives. Here’s why.


The five largest drug manufacturers made more than $50 billion in profits in 2015. Meanwhile, nearly 1 out of 5 Americans could not afford the medicine they were prescribed. The result: Millions of Americans became sicker, and some ended up in emergency rooms at great cost. Others unnecessarily lost their lives.


It is beyond comprehension that while Americans are suffering and dying because they cannot afford the medications they need, the 10 highest-paid chief executives in the pharmaceutical industry collectively made $327 million in 2015. These executives get richer while Americans die. That’s not acceptable.


The root of this problem is that we are the only major country not to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry. You can walk into a pharmacy today and the price could be double or even triple what you paid for the same medicine a year ago, and there are no legal barriers in place to stop these arbitrary increases. Pharmaceutical corporations can raise prices as high as the market allows. If people die, it is not their concern. If people get sicker, it is not a problem for them.


Yet, 50 miles from my home in Vermont, the same medications manufactured by the same companies in the same factories are available for a fraction of the price. A 90-day supply of Januvia, which treats diabetes, is $505 in the United States but $204 across the northern border. A 90-day supply of Advair, used in asthma inhalers, costs about $222 in Canada and approximately $464 in the United States. A year’s supply of one of the most important treatments for advanced prostate cancer, Xtandi, is sold for about $30,000 in Canada. Patients here pay about $130,000.


Outrageously, our government, and therefore U.S. taxpayers, paid for research that led to Xtandi’s discovery.


This state of affairs is unacceptable. Until recently, Trump agreed. Yet after one meeting with pharmaceutical lobbyists, the president started reversing course. Instead of negotiating drug prices down, he talked about cutting taxes for drug companies that already make billions on the backs of American consumers.


Again, this cannot continue. That is why I am introducing legislation to end this insanity, allowing Americans to buy the same drugs they receive now, but from Canada, at far lower prices.

Pharma Guy's insight:

Further Reading: “Sanders to Challenge Trump to Support Allowing Medicare to Negotiate Drug Prices”;

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College of Family Physicians' "Do Nothing" Physician Payment Recommendation

College of Family Physicians' "Do Nothing" Physician Payment Recommendation | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

A report written by the College of Family Physicians in Canada about how to prevent conflicts of interest between doctors and the pharmaceutical is being criticized for weak recommendations, with none of them explicitly banning the accepting of money from the drug industry.

The report makes 20 recommendations dealing with issues such as conflict of interest, financial relationships, marketing and other relationships with the pharmaceutical and health care industries.

But they don't prevent a doctor with ties to the pharmaceutical industry from serving in leadership positions, sponsoring certain events, or even from contributing to an "unrestricted" education fund.

Alan Cassels, a drug policy researcher at the University of Victoria, is critical of the college for sitting on the report as long as it did.

University of Victoria drug policy researcher Alan Cassels says he beleives the report was held back because it is "basically recommending the status quo between physician education and the pharmaceutical industry.”

He suspects the college held it back because it's "pretty embarrassing."

"They're basically recommending the status quo between physician education and the pharmaceutical industry,"

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Senators Start a New Effort to Allow Importation of Certain Drugs from Canada. Will Trump Play Security Card?

Senators Start a New Effort to Allow Importation of Certain Drugs from Canada. Will Trump Play Security Card? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Now that Tom Price has been confirmed to head the US Department of Health and Human Services, a trio of lawmakers is after him to allow Americans to import medicines from Canada. And their names are familiar to anyone who has tracked this particular notion, which has regularly been proposed — and just as often ignored or swatted down — as a fix for the vexing problem of prescription drug costs.


In a letter sent to Price on Tuesday, the lawmakers — Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Mn.) and Senator John McCain (R-Az.) — urged the newly anointed cabinet member to use his statutory authority to fast-track importation from Canada under certain circumstances. And those circumstances include situations in which competition is lacking or there are sudden and huge price hikes.


This is only the latest attempt by these same lawmakers to find a way for Americans to import medicines from Canada. Over the past couple of years, they have each introduced legislation or written letters to HHS urging importation (read, for example, “Drug Importation Crisis: Terror Politics to the Rescue!”; But given that President Trump has informally voiced support for the idea — and twice attacked drug makers over high prices — they apparently see an opening to renew their call.

Pharma Guy's insight:

Back in 2004, under the Bush II administration, the FDA played the "terrorist trump card" in its battle against the legalization of the reimportation of drugs.Lester Crawford, the acting FDA commissioner at the time,  suggested that "a source of continuing concern" is that terrorists might tamper with prescription drugs imported from Canada. Will history repeat itself?

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Canadian Medical Society Not So Transparent About #Pharma Payment Transparency

Canadian Medical Society Not So Transparent About #Pharma Payment Transparency | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

An effort to provide greater transparency in the relationships between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry has taken a controversial turn in Canada, where a leading medical society is being criticized for a new report on the topic.

The College of Family Physicians of Canada, which represents more than 35,000 doctors, earlier this month released a report featuring 21 recommendations that address conflicts of interest and continuing medical education, among other things.

The report emerges amid ongoing debate over the extent to which companies unduly influence medical research and practice. The CFPC, which itself does not accept industry funding, portrayed its effort as a forward-looking statement that will evolve in order to bolster trust and transparency among patients.

Yet the report was first begun five years ago and completed two years ago but was not released until some critics publicly raised a fuss. A CFPC spokeswoman wrote us that the report was never designed to be released publicly, but “in retrospect, we recognize that we should have posted the report to our web site …"

Pharma Guy's insight:

Ha! Ha! This is a great quote: "The report is embarrassing,” said Alan Cassels, a drug policy researcher at the University of Victoria. “Finding good quality — unbiased and useful — drug information is like finding a needle in a haystack. And pharma’s information just makes the haystack bigger.”

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