What's On Top for 2012?
Notwithstanding the favorable implications of this year's audit, there won't be much of an afterglow. The Republican presidential
primary debates presage a harsh fall campaign, where pharma can anticipate increased attention as a consequence of both parties'
sharply contrasting views of reform. The economy is still recovering from recession and invites a hard look at areas that
can reduce expenses for the consumer, such as the out-of-pocket cost of prescription medicines. Price referencing for Medicare
Part D drugs is certain to surface in the candidate debates and media coverage.
Even if Congress doesn't seek a quick fix, pharma will be facing dual challenges from patent expirations and new efforts to
force the industry to contribute to long-term deficit reduction through price and access concessions. Patents for several
blockbuster drugs with significant sales have expired (Merck's Singulair on Feb. 3) or will be expiring (Bristol-Myers Squibb's
Plavix on May 17) and will cost the industry about $54 billion in sales. Meanwhile, the healthcare reform act (PPACA) includes
rebate increases for drugs sold to government health programs; for example, Medicaid rebates are rising from 15.1 percent
to 23.1 percent.
Product Shortages Generate More Coverage
Frustration due to the unavailability of products used to treat patients in hospitals is likely to lead to more newspaper
coverage in 2012. Although the focus of scrutiny has been the profiteering by some suppliers, the underlying cause is problems
with manufacturing, many of whom are single-source generic suppliers. It is also true that shortages are a consequence of
the de-emphasis of products because they are older and less profitable. Generic producers can sometimes fly under the media
radar because of their small size, but big players with a generic footprint such as Novartis and Pfizer will undoubtedly be
asked through the press to furnish solutions to the problem.
All in all, 2011 looks to have been an anomaly—and 2012 is shaping up as an interesting year that will keep corporate
press offices busy.
The issues of FDA and drug safety reveal the continuing media scrutiny of the drug approval process, cases of misuse of prescripton
drugs, the impact of adverse events, and consumer lawsuits related to drug safety.
A consistent finding is that headlines tend to be more negative than positive for the industry. The good news over the past
two years, however, is that the proportion of negative headlines declined considerably from previous years.
George P. Sillup, is Associate Professor, Arupe Fellow, and Chairman of the Pharmaceutical & Healthcare Marketing Department at St. Joseph's
University. He can be reached at email@example.com.Stephen
Porth is Associate Dean, Arupe Fellow, and Professor at St. Joseph's University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
. SJU students Leo Porth, Kelliann Rooney, and Elizabeth Fox also contributed to this research.