Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare in America

June 1, 2008 at 3:31 am Leave a comment

by Jeff Hagen

What follows is a generic business plan that I’ve laid out for the purposes of demonstrating the goals of a typical pharmaceutical company as I see them.

First, a great quote…

“The market functions wonderfully when we want to sell more cereals, cosmetics, cars, computers, or any other consumer product. Unfortunately, it does not work in health care, where the goal should hardly be selling more heart bypass operations. Instead, the goal should be to prevent disease and illness. But the money is in the treatment – not prevention – so the market and good care are at odds.” – Donald L. Bartlett and James B. Steele

Pharmaceutical Company Business Plan

  • Design products to treat long term symptoms of a condition rather than cure a condition outright. This will transfer far more money from user’s pockets to company’s pockets.
  • Design products to be paid for by insurance plans and government agencies. Users will come to depend on their use of the products especially when they do not feel the pinch of paying for them. Once this cycle is established, large amounts of money will transfer regularly from government and insurance agency coffers to company pockets. Use all available lobbying prowess to establish laws and regulations promoting this cycle.
  • Identify product side effects and engineer conditions to be solved by those effects. If product is a hammer, users must be made to believe they have many unseated nails.
  • Design products with patent extension in mind. Example: Design and patent new product, BaknoPain. After original patent runs it’s course, patent and release “new” product, BaknoPain E.R. extending patent cycle.
  • Doctors who relieve symptoms by means other than through our products must be viewed by the public as inadequate. This should be achieved through normal F.D.A. methods using our influence inside the organization.
  • Develop and maintain U.S. lawmaker interest in support for our products. Remember, the strongest lobbying group in Washington belongs to the pharmaceutical industry.

Other Thoughts

As much as it may appear so above, I don’t blame the drug companies so much for the medical situation in this country. If I owned a business, I would likely follow many of the same guides outlined above. The drugs are manufactured to make money, not to be given away. Such is the law of the free market. For me, most of the blame goes to the lack of checks and balances inherent in our medical system. It is interesting right now that both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have healthcare plans that are supposed to cover a large percentage of the population. If you think that drug prices are high now, wait until plans like these take effect. (see item two in the above plan)

A large benefit of televised ads (of which I’m not in favor) is that users are now more aware than ever of the side effects posed by these drugs. Forcing unwanted effects to be included in the ads shows the better side of lawmakers. The major negative is that, when visiting the doctor’s office, users now provide diagnoses for their own conditions while their only learned experience comes from watching the television ads themselves. Of course it’s not quite so simple but this type of marketing is vicious.

Finally…

We’ve all heard the refrain, ‘the cure is more dangerous than the illness’. Many of the dangers with pharmaceuticals lie with side effects that have not been discussed between users and their doctors. Manufacturers make every effort to minimize the down side of their products while maximizing their upside. Can you blame them? This is a very fuzzy area and one of the few areas where I believe regulations are necessary. Remember to always ask your doctor.

Further reading along these lines can be found here: What are the Presidential Candidates Talking About? A Brief Dictionary of Health Policy Terms

Also check out the book, The Truth About the Drug Companies written by Marcia Angell, M.D. former chief editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Entry filed under: Politics. Tags: , , , .

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