Editorial—Public Pressure, the Press, Politics, and Profits

Sep 01, 2004
Volume 17, Issue 9

Carol L Fisher
American patients are more educated about health issues than any prior generation, thanks to the Internet. I read somewhere that doctors, from family physicians to specialists, are amazed at how well prepared their patients are when they show up for an appointment — with documentation in tow after researching conditions, medications, and treatments. So much so that the doctors are stressed out from trying to answer all their questions, complete their exams, and get everyone out the door in the amount of time the insurance companies say is "reasonable."

This heightened awareness of health, easy access to a broad base of information, rising prescription drug costs, the litigious nature of our society, and the aging of a huge slice of the American population, who are themselves caring for an even older generation, could spell a-n-x-i-e-t-y for the pharmaceutical industry.

Consider some of the information the public read within the last few weeks:

  • "Vermont Will Sue US for the Right to Import Drugs"
  • "Drug Companies Dodge Ban from Medicare, Medicaid"
  • "Taken Neurontin? Eligible for Money Because of Your Side-Effects? We Can Help You."
  • "She Turns Her Pen on Drug Makers."

The last entry refers to Marcia Angell, who served as the editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine and is now a senior lecturer at Harvard Medical School. Angell authored a book called The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It. In a recent interview with The Los Angeles Times, she blasted several "myths" that drug companies "would have the public believe," such as that the high cost of drugs is due to high research and development costs and not the result of immense profits. (I wonder if the upcoming presidential election had anything to do with the timing and publication of this interview?)

Most of the time it's anyone's guess whether what the public reads is fact, fiction, or a combination of the two with an additional spin. Nevertheless, they're reading, they're aging, and every few years, they're voting. If you're associated with (bio)pharmaceuticals, there is no better time than now to start improving your operations.

Since last year's Operations Excellence Benchmark Study, attendance at the Operations Excellence Consortium meetings has increased — in both the US and Europe. These companies realize it's a top priority to develop best practices in operational efficiency so they can meet product demand as cost effectively as possible. Several consortium members graciously volunteered to share their progress on the road to excellence in the enclosed supplement, which begins on page 51. Their experience may help you remain in business, and even profitable, in today's environment.

Carol L. Fisher, Editor in Chief
BioPharm International

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