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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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« So What's Wrong With A Little Money Changing Hands? | Main | Happy Fourth of July »

July 2, 2004

The Two Ends of the Stick

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Posted by Derek

I wanted to emphasize a point I made yesterday, about how far removed the research organization is from the sales force in a drug company. I'm not backing away from them, just pointing out that we're at completely opposite ends of a company's functions.

By the time a drug gets into the hands of the sales team, it's been many years since anyone in my area ever worked on it. Several members of the original team have usually left the place completely by that time, and are working for the competition when the drug they helped discover actually makes it to market. The ones who are still there have worked on several other projects by then, and would be hard-pressed to recall all the details of the series of compounds that led to the marketed one. Did we ever try to put a fluorine at that position? Well, yeah, I thinkso. . .didn't so-and-so try that? But they left three years ago, you'd have to go dig through their notebook. . .

It's not like there's no pride in ownership. Everyone in research knows who discovered and worked on the drugs that actually make it all the way to market (partly because there are so few!) It's just that there's such a long lag time between the work we do and the commercial life of the drug. That's why the sales force doesn't have much to say to the research labs, and vice versa. Nothing we're doing can possibly affect their lives in under seven years, and most of the things we're doing will fail and disappear long before then.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Drug Development


1. John Johnson on July 2, 2004 8:04 PM writes...

Only seven? Sheesh! What's your secret? ;)

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2. Maynard Handley on July 2, 2004 8:41 PM writes...

But you can't have it both ways.
Your argument for drug prices is that they pay for R&D.
Those arguing against you point to data showing that precious little R happens (mostly the R happens in govt facilities) and that most of the D is for me-too drugs; and that most of the money spent by pharma is in the sales area.
If you are justifying this spending pattern, you can't then turn around and say that morally you have nothing to do with the end-results, all you do is play in the lab.

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3. Daniel - Medical Transcriptionist on July 3, 2004 7:35 PM writes...

Of course, in a perfect world, the doctors and patients would educate themselves. The money for TV commercials would go towards R&D.

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4. Lawrence B. Ebert on July 10, 2004 10:37 AM writes...

Of the "doctors educating themselves," what about the recent issues of release/nonrelease of clinical trial information?

For example, the June 2, 2004 lawsuit by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, charging that GlaxoSmithKline engaged in "repeated and persistent fraud" by withholding negative information about Paxil and misrepresenting data concerning Paxil's safety and efficacy when prescribed for depression in children and adolescents.

Separately, as to unbiased education, what about the various "conflict of interest" problems at the NIH?

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5. Lawrence B. Ebert on July 18, 2004 7:35 AM writes...

Also, on education, from the internet on the likely Schering-Plough plea bargain:

Under the settlement Schering-Plough is expected to admit it gave grants to private health providers to conduct patient education and marketing programs in return for buying Schering- Plough's drugs at high prices, the New York Times reported.

Schering-Plough then billed Medicaid at the same high prices, without the offsetting grants, the paper said. That is criminal because federal law requires drug makers to offer their lowest prices to Medicaid, the government program for the poor.

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