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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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November 28, 2004

Some Perspective

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Posted by Derek

I remember when this year started that I said that no one in the industry was going to miss 2003, but I think that a lot of folks would trade in 2004 to have it back. I'm pretty easygoing, but man, this has been one of the worst stretches for the drug business that anyone can recall. Every week brings more news of layoffs, regulatory troubles, lawsuits and investigations. We have a front-row seat for the long-running show titled One Damn Thing After Another, and the intermission is not yet in sight.

I won't bother to link to all the individual stories - just go to any news site and enter in the name of a drug company. Odds are the first story that comes up will be negative. It's quite a sight.

But it's important to keep some perspective, even as another load of subpoenas and rotten tomatoes comes in over the transom. The drug industry isn't going away. We perform a vital service, and it's just going to get more important with time. We, our current customers, even the same people who are howling for our heads now will need medicines. And (for many years to come) we - for all our faults - will be the only people who even have a hope of delivering them. We just have to hold on, and hope that all this is a period of creative destruction, rather than the standard bulk-rate kind.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Drug Industry History


1. jeet on November 29, 2004 5:37 PM writes...

of course as an industry insider, I'm (almost by definition) bullish on the impact of pharma and device manufacturers on the long-term health of the population. But here are some of the high impact areas that had a great 2004

1. Humanized monoclonal antibodies - although oral, small molecules are the goal; there are a lot of humanized MAbs in the clinic and a lot more to come. With the current generation of technology (see Abgenix) the development time has been shortened and manufacturing has become almost routine.

2. Cancer therapies - there has been a big shift from general chemotherapies to more targeted drugs. These molecules, combined with a number of big cancer trials that are now/ will be shortly publishing data are giving doctors a new range of treatment options.

3. Implantable defibrillators - big news, the impact of these devices on NYHA Class II patients is real and now they are covered by Medicare. Expect to see some big shifts in life expectancy for heart failure patients (SCD-HeFT trial)

What's going to have major impact in the next 3-5 years?

1. Biogenerics - no regulatory path available in the US, but one is being developed in the EU. Will have a major impact on the cost of certain therapies (i.e., Epogen)

2. Molecular cancer diagnostics - most cancers can be treated if they are diagnosed in Stage I or II. Of course, the bad news is that most cancers are diagnosed in stages II and III - right before or at metastatic disease. With molecular diagnostics it will be possible to diagnose and then confirm and treat at Stage I and II.

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2. Peter on November 29, 2004 9:50 PM writes...

2004 has definitely been a challenging one for those of use in big pharma. Much of the stigma results from the fact that the benefit comes from the poor health of those who purchase the medicines.

We walk a tightrope in which too much profit makes us appear to benefit from the sick, while too much charity makes the business and ultimately research suffer. We need to take a step in the direction of showing compassion on the sick and showing what good we can do. The pharmaceutical industry needs to give itself a makeover. We need to show who we have helped and who we will help.

Look at the Bristol-Myers Squibb Lance Armstrong commercial in which he tells about a cancer drugs that saved his life. Brilliant. Think about all the spokespersons who have been helped by arthritis drugs, heart medication, cancer medication, reflux inhibitors, cholesterol lowering drugs, antibiotics, and others.

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3. tree on December 5, 2004 7:43 PM writes...

This industry lost itself to profit. Every decision made was business decision in every company. Employee are robots, have no creativity, and very little interest in science.

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