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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I'm NOT With Trump Against Big #Pharma, Says @John_LaMattina @Forbes

I'm NOT With Trump Against Big #Pharma, Says @John_LaMattina @Forbes | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

In a recent guest piece on STAT [read “One Physician Says Donald Trump Is Right About #Pharma”;], Dr. Charles D. Rosen enthusiastically supports Mr. Trump’s negative views on the pharmaceutical industry. Dr. Rosen, a clinical professor of orthopaedic surgery at UC Irvine, believes that the Republican presidential nominee is correct on some key issues including:


1) allowing Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies;


2) allowing cheaper pharmaceutical drugs manufactured abroad to be sold in the U.S.


Both points are worthy of debate. Unfortunately, rather than provide thoughtful commentary, Dr. Rosen (who is also the president of the Association of Medical Ethics) goes into a variety of rants to support his views. For example, on Medicare drug price negotiations, a position that the Democratic candidate, Sec. Hillary Clinton also supports, rather than acknowledging the bipartisan backing of such a proposal, Dr. Rosen trashes Clinton’s credibility on following through with her publicly stated stance.


“Hillary Clinton, on the other hand accepted more cash from pharmaceutical companies in the first six months of her campaign than any other candidate in either party. This lessens the potency of her claims to take similar action and suggests yet again disingenuous declarations. If she claims to be such an enemy of Big Pharma, why then are they contributing to her campaign?………Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose campaign coffer is loaded with contributions from drug companies, Trump has barely dipped into that pot of besmirched gold. Yes, Trump is defying Republican dogma, but he’s honestly and forthrightly calling Big Pharma on its Big Baloney.”


Personally, given the outrage over drug prices and the growing calls for controlling Medicare costs, I would not be surprised to see legislation enacted in the next four years giving Medicare the ability to negotiate drug prices regardless of who is elected the 45th U.S. president. In fact, if anything the group NOT likely to support such legislation would be Republicans and not Democrats. Yet, rather than discuss the precedent for government drug price negotiations, as already happens with the Veterans Administration, Dr. Rosen chooses to delve into a Trump-like anti-Clinton attack. Sad.


The same can be said for Dr. Rosen’s views on drug importation. This is a great topic for discussion. Unfortunately, Dr. Rosen goes into another attack.

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John v John: Ex-Pfizer Exec LaMattina Lays Into John Oliver & Takes a Cheap Shot at Medical Journalists

John v John: Ex-Pfizer Exec LaMattina Lays Into John Oliver & Takes a Cheap Shot at Medical Journalists | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

[Oliver] took on the pharmaceutical industry’s marketing practices, starting with the people who talk directly to doctors, the pharmaceutical reps. He claimed that all reps are physical beauties, his source for this information being the TV comedy, Scrubs. Actually, during the segment he showed comments from five different former pharmaceutical reps all of whom are quite ordinary looking. Maybe this is why they are ex-reps. He went on to say that these reps are not necessarily trained in science but could, in fact, have been political science majors, implying that these folks have no business being in doctors’ offices talking about medicines. Here he does a disservice to thousands of people. Over my Pfizer career I met many reps who are extremely intelligent. Not all of them were science majors in college, but they undergo months of intense training when first hired to learn about the basics of the drugs that they will be promoting. I would argue that the training they receive puts them on a par with many people who comment or write about medicines for major news outlets.

Finally, if I were a physician, I would be quite offended by the parody that Oliver used at the end of his segment. He makes doctors appear to be nitwits who are easily influenced by the lure of a sales rep bearing goodies. In his view, doctors are corrupt and their prescribing practices are governed by payments and perks from pharmaceutical companies. Do people think so little of doctors that they believe this?

Pharma Guy's insight:

I like the "when did you stop beating your wife" defense of GSK:

"Oliver then shows clips taken from a GSK launch meeting for a new drug. There is no doubt that this meeting was over the top and, in trying to motivate the reps, leaders talked about how the most successful reps would make a lot of money. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear Oliver say that this meeting occurred in 2001. But my guess is that the vast majority of viewers missed that point. That’s unfortunate, as Oliver clearly omitted the fact that in 2013, GSK made a major change to its policy for compensation to its reps."

True that, but what about more recent GSK shenanigans? As in: 

In 2012, GSK agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges of illegally marketing drugs -- including Avandia -- and withholding safety data from U.S. regulators, and to pay $3 billion to the government in what the Justice Department at the time called the largest health-care fraud settlement in U.S. history (here).

Regarding physicians: Most physicians do not seem to know that "there is no such thing as a free lunch." Medscape's 2012 Ethics Report survey, for example, revealed that 72% of 23,710 physician respondents answered "Yes" to the question "Do you feel that you could be unbiased with prescribing habits if you accept lunches from pharmaceutical representatives?" (see here).

But, according to other researchers, such thinking is a "slippery slope" on which "Physicians fail to recognize their vulnerability to commercial influences due to self-serving bias, rationalization, and cognitive dissonance" (see "Physicians Under Pharma's Influence: Are Physicians Powerless Pawns of Pharma Psychology?").

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New Viagra TV Ad - as Well as All Other #Pharma TV ads - Should Be Dropped, Says Former Pfizer Executive

New Viagra TV Ad - as Well as All Other #Pharma TV ads - Should Be Dropped, Says Former Pfizer Executive | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |
While we can debate the impact of TV ads on the industry’s reputation, I find it hard to believe that the latest Viagra TV campaign is helping to “earn the trust and respect” of any of the constituents cited above. If one truly believes that the industry’s reputation is paramount, stop airing the new Viagra commercial.


The new Viagra ad is not just offensive and hurts pharma's reputation, it also may be a magnet for an FDA warning letter. Read this hilarious post by PharmaGuy to find out whyOh Yeah, Baby! Show Me More!... Viagra TV Ads Like This. But Don't Let My FDA See It!

Pharma Guy's insight:

That's the opinion of John LaMattina, Former Pfizer President of R&D.

In another Forbes opinion piece titled "Pharma's Reputation Continues to Suffer -- What Can Be Done To Fix It" (find it here), LaMattina offered 4 "fixes," including "Drop TV Ads" as #4 on his list.

The other 3 fixes LaMattina put on a par with dropping TV ads are

  1. Transparency of payments to healthcare professionals, 
  2. Transparency of clinical trial data, and 
  3. Stop the illegal detailing of drugs 
  4. Drop TV Ads

Drug TV ads, says LaMattina, "may be doing more harm than good. The litany of side effects that must be discussed is numbing and probably doesn’t provide a sense of the true risk-benefit for that medication. Plus, the public views these ads to be a waste of funds that could otherwise be invested in R&D or in lessening drug costs." 

You might also be interested in reading this article:  Bad, Devalued, Distrusted & Defensive Pharma

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Former #Pharma Pfizer R&D Exec Gives Some Advice to PhRMA's New CEO

Former #Pharma Pfizer R&D Exec Gives Some Advice to PhRMA's New CEO | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

PhRMA has a new leader, Mr. Stephen J. Ubl who began his Washington tenure on Capitol Hill, serving as special assistant to Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA).

"Mr. Ubl has the opportunity to change the tone of the current pricing debate as well as the other issues that impact the pharmaceutical industry’s reputation," says former Pfizer Exec John LaMattina.

You have to admire Mr. Ubl for his courage in taking on this role as he couldn’t have picked a more difficult time to assume the mantel of industry spokesperson. If there is one issue that all the current candidates for the U. S. Presidency seem to agree on, it is that the pharmaceutical industry needs to be reined in, particularly with respect to drug prices. There couldn’t be a bigger bullseye on the pharmaceutical industry.

Mr. Ubl has chosen to defend other questionable positions. For example, many object to new drugs that are modest modifications over older equally effective – and likely cheaper – medicines. Mr. Ubl defended this practice saying that “What some call small changes are often important clinical advantages.” A better answer would have been that all new drugs need to demonstrate meaningful benefits over existing medications to justify their pricing. If any new drug doesn’t add value, physicians, payers and patients should stay with the lower cost drugs. He also needs to avoid such as rhetoric “The debate around drug pricing is myopic and misinformed.” Rather than telling people they don’t understand, it would be better to describe the value of new medicines and provide examples as to how breakthrough medicines save the healthcare system money and save people’s lives.

Pharma Guy's insight:

Ubl is a veteran Washington, DC insider/lobbyist, a qualification that seems to be going contrary to what the U.S. public considers appropriate for its leaders. Is PhRMA out of step with public opinion? Will it be able to influence that opinion? Or is it primarily focused on influencing lawmakers in Washington? Choosing Ubl as CEO seems to support the latter goal rather than the former.

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WHO Attack On #Pharma's Ebola Efforts Unfair, Says LaMattina, Former Pfizer Exec

WHO Attack On #Pharma's Ebola Efforts Unfair, Says LaMattina, Former Pfizer Exec | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

With the Ebola virus ravaging Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, one would think that the World Health Organization (WHO) would be very busy doing what it can to help slow this serious outbreak. Yet, it appears that one of the WHO’s priorities is to attack Pharma as part of the problem. Last week, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan assaulted the industry for not taking an interest in developing an Ebola vaccine. Here are some of her remarks.

“Ebola has historically been confined to poor African nations. The R&D incentive (for Pharma) is virtually non-existent. A profit driven industry does not invest in markets that cannot pay.”

Certainly, as an industry, pharma is very profit driven. Actually, all biopharmaceutical companies are profit driven since without revenues and a return-on-investment, investors would look elsewhere with their funds. Furthermore, investments in drug R&D carries a high risk as evidenced by industry consolidation and the high failure rate for biotech start-up ventures. Given this situation, one might understand that a profit driven industry would, in fact, focus on diseases like cancer and heart disease, which impact on both poor and rich around the world, rather than a horrible disease like Ebola which in the last 40 years has arisen sporadically.

However, contrary to Chan’s comments, the pharma industry HAS invested in an Ebola vaccine. Last September J&J announced that, not only had it been working on an Ebola vaccine, but it was accelerating its development. In conjunction with Bavarian Nordic, a Danish biotech firm, J&J hopes to have 250,000 doses of the vaccine available for testing next May. But J&J isn’t alone in seeking Ebola vaccines.

Pharma Guy's insight:

LaMattina should have provided the context for Chan's remarks instead of just providing  a link.

The intro to her remark in the Time article is: "Speaking in Cotonou, Benin, Margaret Chan, the director general of the WHO, wondered rhetorically why clinicians are 'still empty-handed, with no vaccines and no cure' for Ebola, even though the disease first appeared some four decades ago.'

"The answer, said Chan, is at least in part that 'Ebola has historically been confined to poor African nations.' She lambasted drug manufacturers for not taking an interest in an Ebola vaccine until the disease became a threat to non-African countries, including the U.S."

So, in other words, the #pharma industry could have been developing a vaccine long ago, but didn't because no one would pay for it. Now that Ebola is a threat to Western countries, drugmakers are racing to develop vaccines and drugs to address the worst outbreak of Ebola in history. It's unclear who will pay for their products, but companies are betting that governments and aid groups will foot the bill (for more on  that, read this).

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