Pharmaceutical Sales Affected by Public Image
"[I]mage problems" facing the pharmaceutical industry are beginning to affect sales, the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, Merck's withdrawal of the COX-2 inhibitor Vioxx from the market because of safety concerns spawned an "industrywide credibility crisis." Although prescriptions still are slightly rising, doctors are prescribing fewer medicines, such as antidepressants, that have been safety concerns, and FDA is rejecting new medicines "that might previously have passed muster," the Times reports.
In addition, "insurers and some states are taking advantage of the backlash" by switching patients from newer brand-name drugs to older generic medications, according to the Times. Further, prescription drug sales at some major drug companies, including Pfizer and Merck, are stagnant, which has led to layoffs and unusual research budget cuts.
According to the Times, drug makers facing patent expirations are depending on "stopgap measures," such as reformulating existing medications. However, such efforts "appear to be losing their effectiveness, as consumers become more skeptical and insurers rebel against high prices for drugs that are not therapeutic breakthroughs," the Times reports.
Stock prices of pharmaceutical companies also are decreasing, and an index of drug stocks has dropped 25% in five years, the Times reports.
In addition, according to an October poll, 9% of U.S. residents believed drug companies generally were honest, compared with 14% in 2004. In the same poll, 34% of people reported that they trusted banks and 39% trusted supermarkets.
Billy Tauzin, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said that drug makers are trying to improve their image by advertising more carefully, disclosing more details from clinical trials and making more lower-priced drugs available to low-income individuals. He said, "We've created an impression with the American public that when a drug is approved, it's perfectly safe," adding, "We have not done a good job about educating the patients of America that all drugs come with significant side effects" (Berenson, New York Times, 11/14).