A former Warner-Lambert employee has blown the whistle on the company's "shadowing program," alleging that some physicians accepted money in exchange for allowing pharma sales representatives to meet with patients, review charts, and recommend prescriptions. According to the lawsuit, Warner-Lambert-since acquired by Pfizer-tried to boost sales of its epilepsy drug Neurontin (gabapentin) by tracking prescriptions and rewarding high-prescribing physicians with gifts such as cash, trips to resorts, and lucrative speaking and consulting jobs-as well as paying them to enter patients in clinical trials. The program allegedly paid 75-100 US doctors at least $350 per day to let sales reps watch
Despite generics' increasing market share and the slowed pace of blockbuster discoveries, the industry has reason for optimism. A recent IMS World Review report shows that audited global pharmaceutical sales grew 12 percent in 2001.
During the next three years, an estimated $38 billion in brand-name pharmaceuticals will come off patent, leaving a financial void that many pharma companies hope to fill with functional genomics.
Because of the European Union's country-by-country drug price controls, enterprising wholesalers often buy prescription drugs in nations that keep prices low and resell them in countries that allow higher prices. Sanofi-Synthelabo's Plavix costs $55 in France but is resold for $79 in England. That long-standing practice, known as parallel trade, costs the pharma industry an estimated $3 billion in lost profits each year.
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