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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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September 29, 2004

Peter Rost, Oddity

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Posted by Derek

After mentioning my cheerful outlook on drug reimportation, I should bring up the interesting case of a Pfizer executive, Peter Rost, who also thinks that the drug safety argument is a loser and is willing to say so. (But he's saying it because he thinks that Canadian reimportation would be a really great idea. This is, to put it gently, a most unusual position for a pharmaceutical executive to take.) Rost has been all over the news and in front of Congress, telling everyone with a microphone what he thinks.

He lays it right out about the ridiculous drug safety tactics, saying that he's "never, not once, heard the drug industry, regulatory agencies, the government or anyone express any concern related to safety" and that ". . .companies are testifying that imported drugs are unsafe. Nothing could be further from the truth." Hey, open up! It's good for the soul!

How is Pfizer taking this? Not too well. One of their other executives, one Chuck Hardwick, sent a letter to members of Congress saying "Dr. Rost has no qualifications to speak on importation, no responsibilities in this area at Pfizer, no knowledge of the information and analysis Pfizer has provided to the government on this issue and no substantive grasp of how importation may impact the safety of this nation's drug supply." Safety first, Chuck, never forget. We're going to go down with this one eventually, but at least we'll go down as a team, eh? Another Pfizerite, Paul Fitzhenry, says that Rost's comments "impugn the integrity" of people inside the drug industry who've made the safety argument. Well, I'd hate to impugn anyone's integrity. How about their intelligence?

Now, I don't think that the drug-safety firewall is going to crumble tomorrow (not with things like this going on. But these findings are a direct consequence of one of the only weapons my industry has in the reimportation battle: limiting the supply of drugs to Canada. The Canadian pharmacies are turning to other countries, not all of them reliable.

This will work, for a while - but is it a weapon we want to be seen using? There's a real possibility that this will create shortages of some medicines in other countries as the supply problem cascades along. Do we want everyone to watch as we turn the spigot?

Economics. Drug reimportation is an economic issue, not a safety issue. We've allowed ourselves to get price-controlled into a corner, and we need to find a graceful way out of it. But instead, we're helping to saw through the floor. . .

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Drug Prices


1. David on September 30, 2004 2:46 PM writes...

Well. Maybe people need to understand Econ 101. Price controls (ceilings) create shortages. Period. In drugs, in wheat, in automobiles. you'd think with nearly 80 years of this experiment being tried, repeated, and repeated again with the same result, people would get the idea.

oh well.

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2. Derek Lowe on September 30, 2004 3:26 PM writes...

Yep, I remember a saying from Milton Friedman to the effect that economists may not know much, but they do know how to create shortages: institute price controls. . .

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3. ck on September 30, 2004 6:19 PM writes...

Rost has a history of making noise to make money. Originally, Rost worked for Novartis, and went to the Scandinavian government claiming they (the gov't) were being ripped off by Novartis. He didn't have anything to back his claim up, just "I'm in the industry, so I know". Novartis fired him, but had to fork over a lot of money in whistleblower lawsuit deals.

Pharmacia then hired him (God knows why?), and was grandfathered-in to Pfizer when they bought out Pharmacia. Pfizer would have loved to fire him, but he's a lawsuit liability, as his current claims are showing.

He's doing the same thing as before, in an attempt to make more money. He's hoping Pfizer fires him so he can file whistleblower lawsuits. American courts are known for awarding larger settlements, and Pfizer has deeper pockets.

In the Pfizer community, he is regarded as a loose cannon and handled as such. Nobody trusts him with any information, and wouldn't give him a 'scoop' on any explosive information if their life depended on it. Because he doesn't have any bolstering evidence, he's trying to make some noise by jumping on the reimportation thing.

It is unfortunate, but sycophants like this do exist in the scientific community. He's just looking for a reason to go to court and grab some money.

Admittedly, the drug safety argument isn't very strong, though it does have validity. The key issue is that other countries are enjoying lowered prices at the US consumer's expense. Leveling the playing field for consumers globally will take a lot of effort, and cooperation from several nations.

PS: I don't believe Rost is actually an "executive". He's stuck in a corner someplace and given nothing to do just to keep an eye on him. Pfizer knew he was trouble from the beginning and tried to buy him off with a severance package after buying out Pharmacia. Unfortunately for Pfizer, he didn't bite.

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4. ck on September 30, 2004 6:25 PM writes...

I take back the executive comment. Apparently, he is the VP of Marketing for Endocrine care products. While it qualifies as an executive position, it is hardly an influential position. How many endocrine care products does Pfizer make? and how aggressively are they marketed? Like I said, they created a position for him where he could do little damage and was kept away from any of the hard-science realm. (Its pretty telling when an MD is given a VP of marketing job). Again, he was stuck in a corner and given a fluff job.

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