Glenn Reynolds, of Instapundit fame, has some nice things to say about the drug industry in this piece on MSNBC.com. I appreciate it; we need all the good press we can get these days. Says Glenn:
"The pharmaceutical industry isn't beyond criticism, of course. But I find most of the criticism rather strained, and all of the critics far too slow to give the industry the credit it deserves for the tremendous good it does"
There are some who will say that Reynolds is hardly disinterested, since his wife is responding well to an antiarrythmic medication which she badly needed. I'd respond that this is just the sort of thing we need more of. The more people with reason to like our industry, the better. Those are people that we've helped, who think that they've gotten something worthwhile for their money, who are satisfied with what we've been able to produce. I wish it were harder than it is to find disinterested parties, frankly.
As it is, very few people who've had to deal with Alzheimer's, say, have much reason to feel good about the pharma industry. There are many infectious diseases for which we don't have much to offer. And while some cancers are truly yielding to treatment, many others are just as much of a death sentence as they've always been. The people who encounter those have a right to wonder about what the deal is with all those breakthroughs they read about.
I've said it before, and here it comes again, that the best way for the drug industry to improve its image is to deliver the goods. That's not going to be easy - the disease areas I've named are pretty rough, and the other key ones aren't any better. It's going to cost an insane amount of money and effort to get our good names back.
And while we're at it, we're going to have to make a better case for some of the drugs we're already selling and working on. Glenn's piece is a response to this book, which makes the argument that the industry is spending too much time "treating people who aren't sick". If we're preventing diseases and improving quality of life, and we'd better be, then we need to make people aware of it.
What's left out? Lifestyle drugs - sexual performance, cosmetic enhancement, that sort of thing. They can be profitable, but I think if we spend too much time in those areas, we're going to get hammered on. The grindstone is the place to be.