Life Science Leader, a trade magazine for life science executives, has an article in its June 2009 issue called “Drug Reimportation: Helpful or Harmful?”
While it’s a fair-minded overview of the arguments on both sides of the issue, it unfortunately allows Big Pharma to repeat its most specious rationales for not permitting Americans to buy drugs from Canada.
(Did you know that allowing grandma to buy drugs from a online Canadian pharmacy will increase the threat of terrorism? Oh, brother…)
But what I found most interesting in the story was the analysis of Richard Evans, a vice president at AVOS Life Sciences, a life sciences consultancy. Before joining AVOS, Evans spent nearly a decade studying the U.S. pharmaceutical industry as a Wall Street analyst.
He has also served as vice president for business policy at Roche, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Evans should know a few things about Big Pharma and how it thinks.
So it’s fascinating that Evans tells Life Science Leader that Big Pharma actually likes debating the issue of drug reimportation and keeping it on the front burner — not because it is in the right on the issue, but because it distracts politicians and the public from its other, even more grievous sins.
According to the magazine:
[Evans] thinks that by focusing on drug reimportation, the drug industry deflects efforts to reform other aspects of healthcare which would be more detrimental to the industry. The political utility for the industry is that it consumes legislative time, which is a finite resource. I don’t know anyone who thinks passage [of drug reimportation legislation] would reduce drug prices. He compares the industry’s reaction to the legislation to that of Brer Rabbit, who asked Brer Fox over and over again not to throw him in the briar patch. That, of course, was exactly what he wanted Brer Fox to do, and Evans thinks the drug industry is acting just like Brer Rabbit.
The reality is, passing drug reimportation would indeed save U.S. consumers money. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated it would save consumers a minimum of $40 billion over 10 years.
That’s a lot to you and me — but chump change to Big Pharma. Damien Conover, a stock analyst at Morningstar, tells Life Science Leader that “of all the healthcare reforms being considered, drug reimportation will have the least effect on the pharmaceutical industry.”
And yet, they are fighting it tooth and nail. Here’s an idea: Let’s pass this legislation — then pass those other needed reforms, too.71