An Easy Way to Cut Down on Pill Suicides?

Ezekiel Emanuel, who's popped up in our blog and podcasts, writes in the Times about a simple way to reduce suicides:

We need to make it harder to buy pills in bottles of 50 or 100 that can be easily dumped out and swallowed. We should not be selling big bottles of Tylenol and other drugs that are typically implicated in overdoses, like prescription painkillers and Valium-type drugs, called benzodiazepines. Pills should be packaged in blister packs of 16 or 25. Anyone who wanted 50 would have to buy numerous blister packages and sit down and push out the pills one by one. Turns out you really, really have to want to commit suicide to push out 50 pills. And most people are not that committed.

Why Do Patent Holders Sometimes Pay Patent Copiers?

Like a lot of products, pharmaceuticals get knocked off. And when that happens to a drug that’s protected by a patent, the next event is unsurprising: a lawsuit brought by the patent holder. But there is a very unusual twist in the pharma world. When the dust settles, quite frequently it is the major pharmaceutical firm that is paying the company that has knocked off their patented drug.

In one recent case involving Cipro, a widely-used antibiotic with annual sales exceeding $1 billion, Bayer (the patent owner) paid $400 million to a generic drug maker, Barr Laboratories, to settle their patent dispute. Why would the patent holder make such a huge payment to the knockoff artist, and not the other way around?

The Power of the FDA

What exactly happens when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issues one of those ominous Public Health Advisories (PHAs) about a pharmaceutical product? A new paper by Rena M. Conti, Haiden A. Huskamp and Ernst R. Berndt investigates.

 

From the abstract:

We find firms targeted by an advisory have average stock price declines of 3% in three days and 11% in five days following the advisory release, and in turn appear to decrease total physician-directed promotion spending, journals ads and detailing visits significantly six months following the advisory release; the provision of free samples is unaffected. We find no changes among therapeutic substitutes unaffected by the advisory.

Xcellent Names for Drugz

Ever wondered why so many prescription drug names are loaded with x's and z's? Scrabble gives a hint.

How Much Progress Have Psychology and Psychiatry Really Made? A Freakonomics Quorum

The debate about the effectiveness and safety of psychiatric drugs rambles on while new (if not conclusive) psychological studies come out with the frequency of fad diets. We invited some people who think a lot about such issues — David B. Baker, John Medina, Dan Ariely, Satoshi Kanazawa, Peter D. Kramer, and Laurie Schwartz — […]

What Don’t We Know About the Pharmaceutical Industry? A Freakonomics Quorum

This blog has regularly featured items on the pharmaceutical industry, including posts here, here, and here. It was this post in particular, highlighting an interview with the CEO of Genentech, that made me want to post a quorum on the subject. So we’ve gathered up some willing and able candidates — Dr. Stuart Apfel, Zola […]

What Do Houston Retirees and South African Schoolchildren Have in Common?

The answer is: they both have Cyril Wolf as a patron. Who? You may remember Wolf as the gentlemanly doctor in Houston who shared with me his research on how some drug-store chains charge 1000% more for generic prescriptions than Costco and Sam’s Club. (Yes, 1000% more.) The reason he was so distraught by this […]

If Crack Dealers Took Lessons From Walgreens, They Really Would Be Rich

Several weeks ago, I was talking to a physician in Houston, the sort of older gentleman family doctor you don’t see much of anymore. His name is Cyril Wolf. He’s originally from South Africa, but other than that, he struck me as the quintessential American general practitioner of decades past. I’d asked him a variety […]

Three Cheers for Big Pharma

Jeffrey Lacasse, a PhD. candidate in social work at Florida State University, has co-authored a paper claiming that pharmaceutical companies allowed to market directly to consumers take maximum advantage, exaggerating the benefits of their products in large part because the F.D.A. doesn’t pay much attention to the ads. Here’s the paper. In related news, here’s […]