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Instead of hampering progress, cost pressures might inspire Big Pharma to get creative.
Reducing healthcare costs, a priority for President Obama, will be important for everyone during our economic crisis. Promoting cheap generic drugs as alternatives to branded medicines is one possible approach to the problem.
A paper published in the Dec. 3, 2008 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association supports this strategy. Researchers analyzed studies conducted between 1984 and 2008 that compared the clinical results of treatment with branded and generic cardiovascular drugs. Clinical equivalence was established in 29 of 32 randomized controlled trials, and the authors concluded that evidence did not support the idea that branded therapies were superior to generic drugs in the treatment of cardiovascular disease.
If this report encourages patients, doctors, and health plans to use generic drugs, how will Big Pharma deal with the competition? It seems likely that manufacturers will intensify their efforts to develop new drug-delivery methods for existing products. In a September 2008 press release, Frost and Sullivan said that patent expiries were spurring investment in novel delivery systems. Interest in pulmonary, transdermal, and nanotechnological routes is growing rapidly, the company said.
Generic competition and the economic crunch might be blessings in disguise for Big Pharma. If these pressures lead companies to develop safe, innovative, and convenient delivery methods for existing drugs, then patients and industry will share the benefits.
Erik Greb is an assistant editor of Pharmaceutical Technology.
»Read Erik's blogs at blog.PharmTech.com.