Ankylose This! Living with Ankylosing Spondylitis

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Biologics and the bottom line

Biotech drugs are helping pharmaceutical companies' bottom line because, unlike simple pharmaceuticals, biotech isn't subject to expiring patents. Pharmaceutical companies can lose billions in income when a drug patent expires, though we benefit when a cheaper generic equivalent hits the market. So biotech's profit potential is much greater, because it is -- at least for now -- more or less perpetual.

Why is this of interest? Because biotech includes TNF-alpha blockers like Enbrel, Humira and Remicade. (Humira is specifically mentioned in the article: it contributes $2 billion, or nearly 10 per cent, to Abbott's bottom line.) And these are the drugs that we, as ankylosing spondylitis patients, are increasingly being put on.

We know we're being marketed to about these drugs. To what extent is these drugs' extreme profitability playing a role in getting us on them? It's hard to think objectively about these drugs in this context. They may well be better. But I can't help but wonder if the industry would prefer it if I (or my spouse's drug plan) was spending $1,500 on a biologic, rather than $30 a month on generic naproxen.

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