Monday, November 14, 2005

NYT: Big pharma's image problem hurting sales

The NYT reports that big drug companies, while still profitable, are feeling the effects of an "industrywide credibility crisis." Going back to vaccine refusniks and my sister-in-law, this must a factor in driving some people away from the scientific medical establishment:
Overall, prescriptions continue to rise slightly, but an increasing share of prescriptions are going to generic drugs. Also, consumers seem to be less responsive to aggressive drug marketing. 'A lot of the demand that the industry has created over the years has been through promotion, and for that promotion to be effective, there has to be trust,' said Richard Evans, an analyst covering drug stocks at Sanford C. Bernstein and Company. 'That trust has been lost.'

A poll last month showed that only 9 percent of Americans believed drug companies were generally honest, down from 14 percent in 2004. In contrast, 34 percent of people said they trusted banks, and 39 percent trusted supermarkets. "The incessant direct-to-consumer advertising on television I think has boomeranged," said Dr. Marcia Angell, a former editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine and a frequent industry critic. Dr. LaMattina and other executives say that perception unfairly disregards the billions of dollars that drug companies spend on research each year and the hundreds of important medicines they have discovered since World War II. Even the industry's staunchest defenders agree that it needs to explain risks better.

"We've created an impression with the American public that when a drug is approved, it's perfectly safe," said Billy Tauzin, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a lobbying organization for brand-name drug companies. "We have not done a good job about educating the patients of America that all drugs come with significant side effects."

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