Big Pharma = Big Salaries

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No, these are not NHL hockey players’ salaries.  They’re last year’s annual incomes of the 17 highest paid pharmaceutical company CEOs. Please note that there are no women on this list. Figures include the full compensation package of stock options, annual incentives, performance-based grants (equity and cash), restricted stock grants, and other corporate perks.

As nice as these numbers look, Big Pharma über-salaries have largely escaped the scathing attacks that wealthy health insurance company execs have endured since the American health reform adventure began. Could this be because of the $200 million that the powerful Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America have donated to help President Obama’s overhaul of the U.S. health care system?   Read the list

Merck paying off 3,100 families for heart attack/stroke deaths linked to Vioxx painkilling drug

vioxx blueDrug giant Merck & Co. is paying the families of more than 3,100 Vioxx painkiller users who died of heart attacks and strokes that were blamed on the drug. Merck introduced Vioxx in 1999 but withdrew it from the market in 2004 when a study showed the drug doubled the risk of heart attacks and strokes. By 2007, Merck had set up a fund of $4.85 billion (yes, that’s billion with a ‘B’)  to cover claims of death and lesser injuries, after reserving $1.9 billion to fight over 26,600 Vioxx lawsuits in court. Houston attorney Mark Lanier observed at the time:

“We don’t know any drug right now with this number of deaths associated with it. This is a very sad chapter in the tragedy of pharmaceutical companies gone wild.” 

And – quelle surprise! - Vioxx turns out to be one of countless prescription drugs that have been fraudulently promoted in industry-funded ghostwritten articles in medical journals.    Continue reading

Is Big Pharma onboard the Titanic?

If you want to predict what you should be worrying about tomorrow, find out what insiders are worried about today. For example, it’s ever-so-enlightening to eavesdrop on the internal reports that Big Pharma stakeholders are reading, where the lowly, uninformed patient can find intriguing musings from pundits, those who are paid to stay one step ahead of the prescription pad.

At the Pharma Chem Outsourcing conference this month in New Jersey, speaker Stefan Loren of the investment firm Westwicke Partners revealed a sobering view of Big Pharma in his talk, “The Pharma Titanic: It’s Time To Root For the Iceberg”.

Mr. Loren opened his presentation with an overview of the U.S. national health care debate. He said that mandatory health insurance will be good for Big Pharma. But he also believes that there will be strong pressure for mandatory comparative effectiveness testing between drugs - not good for Big Pharma.

He sees global pharmaceutical sales declining, except for future growth coming in Asia and Latin America. He also sees evidence of “health care avoidance” – practices like unfilled prescriptions, unfinished courses of prescriptions, and people just not visiting medical and dental practitioners, also not a good trend for Big Pharma.

“The coming wave of patent expirations of the top 10 drugs will hit Big Pharma hard. Generics will grow: in 5-10 years, 80% of all prescriptions will be generic.  That means trouble ahead. For investors, the return on investment for Big Pharma is largely negative. It’s a “death spiral.” Continue reading