Drug companies bring all kinds of miracles to our lives, but it amazes me how many dollars are spent on things that (at least to me) seem to have no profit potential.
My personal peeve is "convenience pills." Recently, I read a news item about a company developing a combination tablet with omeprazole and aspirin – in one pill.
I’m not a marketing person, so I really don’t understand this. Both drugs are available over the counter for pennies per day, and here someone wants to put them in one pill and charge extra for it.
This isn’t the first time it’s been done. Duexis (ibuprofen plus famotidine) is one of several out there. You’d think that finding a new drug would be the goal, rather than recycling new ones. Giving us plenty of samples to start patients on (and those copay cards) doesn’t change the fact that the drug won’t be covered by insurance, and in a week we’ll tell the patient to just buy the individual components.
The people behind these often use the phrase "pill burden" referring to the apparently horrendous difficulties posed by having to take two pills instead of one. I have no idea where they get this idea. Yes, it sounds nice on the surface, but not "costs-$35-more-a-month" nice. Most of my patients are just fine with taking two pills at once, as am I.
I understand the reason they do this: It’s cheaper to reformulate and market drugs that already have been developed and have years of data behind them. This cuts down dramatically on R&D costs. But you still have to sink a fortune into clinical trials, getting Food and Drug Administration approval, and marketing. At the end of all that, I have no idea how they can make a profit when competing with already available generics.
My personality type is such that I don’t argue with the drug reps who come to my office. They didn’t bring it to market. They’re doing their job, just like I’m doing mine. I suspect they know how useless the drug is but (as I often do) remind themselves that they have a family to support.
It’s a free country, and I know you can sell whatever you want (with FDA approval). But I don’t understand what financial incentives there are for companies to do this pharmaceutical recycling. And I probably never will.
Dr. Block has a solo neurology private practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.