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Man Allegedly Praises Pharmaceutical Companies...

The man in question? Joe Biden – well known for speaking up against drug prices in the US. The headline that actually appeared in my news feed? “Joe Biden Reportedly Praises Pharmaceutical Companies.” Other media outlets ran with similar headlines, seemingly unable to resist taking a pop at Biden and pharma in one go. It must have been a slow news day.

Biden apparently dared say there were “great drug companies out there – except for a couple of opioid outfits.” Some have criticized Biden for praising companies that are “greedy, corrupt, and engaged in price fixing.” (1, 2) 

A new Gallup poll claims that, in the USA, big pharma is viewed with more distaste than any other industry (3). Even the Federal government has a better reputation than the drug industry. The high-profile situation with opioids will not have helped the industry’s image (look forward to an in-depth report on opioids in the November issue of The Medicine Maker). 

We’ve said it before, but pharma must do more to promote the industry’s good side. In a recent conversation with Tony Hitchcock from Cobra Biologics, I was told that pharma’s negative reputation could have a negative effect on attracting talent; young scientists will likely be more attracted to medicine and healthcare rather than drug development. And the pharma industry needs (and deserves) great talent to fuel R&D.

Rather more worryingly, politicians appear to be somewhat ignorant of how the wheels of the pharma industry turn. For example, in late September, Jeremy Corbyn – leader of the UK’s Labour Party – announced that he wants to seize patent rights from companies and establish a state-run operation to produce generic drugs (4). 

We all want improved access to medicines but nothing comes for free. Corbyn’s plans could completely disincentivize drug development. The announcement does, however, highlight the mounting anger and desperation on drug pricing. If pharma itself doesn’t come up with workable solutions quickly (the recent announcement about a vaccines subscription from the NHS is one example of a more intriguing approach to the challenges of drug costs), then drug pricing will continue to feature on political agendas. And proposed solutions could be become even more radical.

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  1. Business Insider, “Joe Biden reportedly praised pharmaceutical companies at a private party despite publicly railing against high drug prices” (2019). Available at Last accessed September 26, 2019.
  2. Bloomberg, “Biden Praises Pharma to Donors as He Pushes to Cut Prices” (2019). Available at Last accessed September 26, 2019.
  3. Gallup, “Big Pharma Sinks to the Bottom of U.S. Industry Rankings” (2019). Available at Last accessed September 26, 2019.
  4. BBC News, “Labour on collision course with big pharma over drugs” (2019). Available at Last accessed September 26, 2019.
About the Author
Stephanie Vine

Making great scientific magazines isn’t just about delivering knowledge and high quality content; it’s also about packaging these in the right words to ensure that someone is truly inspired by a topic. My passion is ensuring that our authors’ expertise is presented as a seamless and enjoyable reading experience, whether in print, in digital or on social media. I’ve spent fourteen years writing and editing features for scientific and manufacturing publications, and in making this content engaging and accessible without sacrificing its scientific integrity. There is nothing better than a magazine with great content that feels great to read.

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