Confusing Language and a Dubious Victory for Patients

Erik Greb PharmTech editorThis week, vaccine manufacturers won increased protection from liability in a closely watched case before the US Supreme Court. In Bruesewitz v. Wyeth, the Court ruled that federal law prohibits patients who claim to have been injured by a vaccine from suing the manufacturer. Pfizer hailed the decision as a victory for public health, but its effect is to diminish patients’ recourse when they suffer harm from taking faulty products. Read more »

Could Lawsuits Threaten Vaccine Makers’ Livelihood?

Erik Greb PharmTech editorDoes federal law shield the makers of vaccines from product-liability lawsuits? Last week, the US Supreme Court began considering this question, which is the heart of a lawsuit against Wyeth, now a part of Pfizer (New York). Read more »

The Unkindest Cuts of All

Erik Greb PharmTech editorThese days, mandatory furloughs and staff cuts have employees in all industries nervously glancing over their shoulders. The pharmaceutical industry is no exception. Last week, Merck (Whitehouse Station, NJ) revealed plans to reduce its workforce by 15% by the end of 2012. Read more »

Rodney Dangerfield and R&D

Erik Greb PharmTech editorThese days, research scientists, much like Rodney Dangerfield, can’t get any respect. The latest evidence of this arrived on Friday, when AstraZeneca (London) proposed to cut 3500 research and development (R&D) jobs by 2014. Read more »

Pink Slips and Pipelines

Erik Greb PharmTech editorLast week we saw more signs that pharmaceutical megamegers bode ill for New Jersey workers. Business Week reported that Pfizer (New York) planned to close six research and development (R&D) facilities—some of its own, and some of Wyeth’s (Madison, NJ). Many of the 400 employees at Wyeth’s research offices in Monmouth Junction, New Jersey, could be laid off. And last Wednesday, Richard Clark, CEO of Merck (Whitehouse Station, NJ), told attendees at a Goldman Sachs conference that research jobs at Schering-Plough’s (Kenilworth, NJ) headquarters could be eliminated to reduce costs. Read more »

Repairing the Engine of Drug Innovation

Patricia Van Arnum PharmTech editor

In a speech last week to the City Club of San Diego, John Lechleiter, chairman and chief executive officer of Eli Lilly, offered very candid remarks about the state of innovation in the pharmaceutical industry, saying that the engine of biopharmaceutical innovation is “broken.” His comments may be a bitter pill to swallow in light of escalating investment in research and development (R&D), but his frankness may just be the remedy the industry needs to reinvent itself. Read more »

Can Insurance Companies Help Improve Health?

Angie Drakulich PharmTech editorUnitedHealth Group, a Minneapolis-based healthcare company, recently announced that it would soon provide a price break to members who correctly use certain asthma and antidepressant drugs. The news was reported in a Wall Street Journal article by Peter Loftus of Dow Jones Newswires.  

To get the $20 copay discount, members must refill their prescriptions within about 30 days after their last prescription runs out. Eligible drugs include GlaxoSmithKline’s Advair, AstraZeneca’s Symbicort, Eli Lilly’s Cymbalta, Wyeth’s Effexor XR, and Wyeth’s Pristiq. The discount applies to members who have a normal copay of $50 on these drugs, meaning the new copay would be $30, according to Loftus’ article. Read more »

Sanofi and Shantha: Cousin, Cousine

Erik Greb PharmTech editorReading the news sometimes gives me a disorienting sense of déjà vu. I know I wrote that last week, but it’s true again for a different reason. Today, French heavyweight sanofi aventis (Paris) announced that it was acquiring a majority stake in Shantha Biotechnics (Hyderabad, India). This new development follows a now-familiar pattern. Read more »

Wyeth Says Yes to Pfizer Takeover

Maribel Rios PharmTech editorTo no one’s surprise, Wyeth shareholders approved yesterday the $68-billion merger agreement with Pfizer. The vote was overwhelming: 98% in favor. The final step is the approval by the Federal Trade Commission and international regulators. The mega deal, one in three this year (Merck and Schering Plough; and Roche and Genentech) emphasizes the bottom-line industry mantra: diversify to compete. Read more »

Medicaid Woes: Et tu, Wyeth?

Maribel Rios PharmTech editorPfizer’s Free Medicines program, “Maintain,” launched last week, promising to offer relief to many newly unemployed Americans. It seems like a good idea, and perhaps it will shine a positive light on the industry. Unfortunately, Big Pharma’s good intentions may be overshadowed by new accusations of overcharging state Medicaid programs. Read more »

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