Argument for Big Pharma

Not a big fan of big pharma. Not a big fan of big insurance. Come to think of it, I’m not a big fan of anything big: government, hospitals, or anything else for that matter. This bias is evident in this post fromĀ The Physician Executive.


Peter Pitts appears to be a very intelligent person. As a former head of the FDA, he knew how to find the money and took off to run the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, generally recognized as a front for Big Pharma. I like reading his posts, for the same reason I like reading the Cato; I am always looking for good arguments on the side of any position.

So I came across this interesting article suggesting that we need to stop insurance companies from switching people to generics all the time. This was published the same day that Wal-Mart added terbinafine, once $300 a month, to it’s $4 generic list.

As a clinician, my frustration is that insurance companies, or more specifically the pharmacy benefit managers, forcing patients to change meds. They insist that a certain medication in a given class is not covered and the patient must change to a different drug in the same class. It’s like don’t take amoxicillin, you have to take penicillin. Alternatively, the physician can somehow demonstrate or certify an adverse reaction or lack of effect before they authorize going back to the original drug. I already know drug A doesn’t work, from experience on the previous insurance. The insurance requires that we try Drug A again, before they reimburse for Drug B, which the patient has been taking for a long time.

I understand the complications of dealing with expanded formularies and the inefficiencies of having to stock so many similar drugs. I also understand the value of the discounts available when you order in bulk.

I just don’t think it’s a good idea to swap chemical entities because I have a healthy respect for the risks of consuming anything on a regular and ongoing basis. Once you have a functional and safe regimen, it is unwise to change.

Here’s the bone I’m going to throw to Big Pharma; sometimes a softer argument makes a greater effect than one so strident, the bias encourages the reader to discard it without a thought.