Friday, June 23, 2006

Big Pharma Can’t Buy Everyone Off?

When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it? – Eleanor Roosevelt

Aetna Inc. said Thursday that it would buy discounted copies of the cholesterol drug Zocor from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. rather than accept an offer from Merck & Co. to sell its branded pill for less than the generic.—Bloomberg News-Los Angeles Times, 6/23/06

After yesterday’s report on Merck discounting Zocor to $10 for members of some large insurance plans, vs. $50 for the release of a new generic version, the assumption was that the steamrollering effect against generic drugs was getting well underway. Today’s announcement by Aetna is a stiff stopgap against the tide.

Aetna found that a price break on Zocor wasn't worth sending patients a message that they could get a brand-name drug for less than generics, [Eric Elliott, Aetna's pharmacy manager] said. Any erosion in the use of generics would drive up total spending on drugs.--Bloomberg News-Los Angeles Times, 6/23/06

Either someone has a conscience in the big pharma world of drug manufacturers and medical insurers—or else someone dropped the ball in the scheme of payoffs and promises.

Do I seem cynical? Zocor generated $4.4 billion last year for Merck. How far would a drug company go to insure income like that to continue or grow for its patented products? It’s still too early to tell.

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