Friday, April 28, 2006

Inventing disease or true unmet need - accusations against pharmacuetical industry

The future of the pharmaceutical industry will be dominated by innovation, much of it biotech driven.  But success depends on linking new product innovation to genuine unmet need.  The accusation is that some pharma companies have been inventing new treatment areas and diseases to maximise revenue from drugs that would otherwise have low sales.


However, at the end of the day the only real judge of unmet need is the person who is suffering.  As a physician myself I know how blind doctors can be to the true toll of illness on those who come to them.  An obvious example is the relief of pain in hospice medicine (my own specialty in the days when I was a practising doctor).  The entire hospice movement has been created in part to solve a nightmare for cancer patients – untreated pain and other major symptoms, despite the fact that many highly effective therapies are available.  Doctors are often ignorant, or afraid to ask the questions and patients often hold back from revealing the truth.  The reasons for these things are complex, but this is just one example where surveys of unmet need show huge differences between what doctors think is happening, what patients tell their doctors about and what patients actually experience.