Following an industry's wild ride is one of the great pleasures of being a trade journalist. From that perspective, I could hardly ask for a better subject matter than pharma. Here at Pharm Exec, we've been spending a lot of time thinking about the industry and its recent past, as we prepare for our year-long celebration of our 25th anniversary. (I don't want to spoil all the surprises just yet, but we think you'll enjoy and benefit from the events and editorial projects we have in the works.) As we look over the pharma-related events that have taken place since the magazine launched in January of 1981, it's hard not to be left gasping. Here's just a tiny sample:
- The Tylenol tampering case of 1982, in which seven people died after taking Tylenol laced with cyanide—the first US murder by deliberate product tampering, and a stunning reminder of the level of trust required of drug products.
- The AIDS epidemic, which brought infectious diseases back to center stage after years of declining importance. Drugs soon turned the death sentence into a chronic condition—but the epidemic is a reminder that diseases don't yield easily, and that politics and economics can be just as significant as microorganisms.
- The mapping of the human genome, which breathtakingly expanded the universe of things medicine doesn't quite know what to do with.
- Direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs, which involved patients in their own care in new ways and has created communications problems the industry is nowhere near solving.
- The rise of biotech, which has been a miracle, a hype, an essential tool, and an utter distraction, sometimes all at the same time.
- The Medicare Modernization Act, which will almost do something to or for the industry—though it continues to be difficult to tell what.
- The creation of whole new classes of drugs, from SSRIs to statins to ACE inhibitors, to targeted cancer therapies, some of them so good that it will be hard to replace them with new drugs, while none of them are used apropriately by anywhere near the number of patients who should.
I could go on and on. The point is clear, though. This has been an amazing quarter century for pharma, and it has brought us to a point at which the next quarter century can only be more of the same. New markets will emerge in India, China, and Latin America. New techniques—especially nanotechnology and gene therapy—will come of age. The industry will weather the coming years of belt tightening and become something different and, one hopes, stronger. A lot of political football will be played, and who knows, at some point, maybe some other industry will replace pharma as ball.
It should be an exciting ride, not necessarily fun, but important not just for the industry but for patients as well. I know you're on board, and your friends here at Pharm Exec are as well. We've always tried to bring you the tools and ideas you need to survive and thrive on the roller coaster that is pharma. For our next 25 years, we promise to look harder, probe deeper, think more expansively, and bring you more value. Happy birthday from us.