Just a brief note today about the "PROVE-IT" study that Bristol-Meyers Squibb ran and has now reported on. This was their big shot at Pfizer's Lipitor, their chance to show that their own statin, Pravachor, was just as good or better. The study was big, it was long, and man, was it expensive. It's just the sort of thing that I was talking about when I wrote recently about comparative drug trials.
And it shows why more of them aren't done. Because, as is well known, when you strike at a king, you have to kill him. BMS found, no doubt to their dismay, that Lipitor is actually a better drug. It's not a gigantic difference, and you can still argue about the dosages, but BMS's drug definitely failed to realize the hopes they had for it. Here are two competing views on the issue, one from DB's Medical Rants (keep scrolling up) and one from Medpundit.
Now what? How do they promote it? The question that BMS is going to get is "Why should anyone take your drug instead of Lipitor?" The only thing I can think of is for them to compete on price. "Take Pravachor - it's proven to be sort of, you know, inferior, but it's sure cheaper!" Doesn't quite have that compelling zing, does it?
If comparative drug trials are going to be done, they're either going to have to be required by law - in which case, as I pointed out, we in the industry will pass along those costs to the consumer, thanks - or they'll have to be done by a third party. (In which case it'll be paid for by everyone who pays taxes, not just the eventual users of the drugs involved.) If you're waiting for more companies to do them on their own, you're going to have a long wait. Especially after something like this happens.
I'll leave everyone with a homework question: Can anyone think of another case - I can't - where a company sponsored a study of their product against a competitor, found that theirs fell short, and publicized it? UPDATE: I mean, outside the drug industry. It's happened several times to us (Zyprexa!) I'm talking Ford / Honda, Dell / Gateway examples, and I can' think of one. Admittedly, as I've said before, health care is different, but still. . .