It takes approximately 13 years to bring a pharmaceutical product to market and many fall by the wayside in the process so that the successful ones have to support the failures and the ones which won’t bring in much money. The product has a limited patent lifespan in which it must recoup costs and cover the failures. Once the patent expires, other manufacturers are free to produce generics and undercut the original pharma company. Delia Stearnes, with three decades of experience in the UK’s National Health Service objects to this as she feels that the generic manufacturers don’t have to make any effort, but she does have a possible solution: “To me, the solution is easy, double the length of the patent for the drug at half the cost.”
The major drug companies used to provide us (general practices and practice nurses) with information material for our patients and training for ourselves. They are also a boost to our economy. The use of generics is confusing for patients and the drugs are often inferior, some have to be changed back to branded.
Years ago , when giving Ventolin and a Volumatic spacer device, I had to write “not parallel import” on the prescription as the pharmacist had to issue the cheapest and if it was from abroad, it wouldn’t fit the spacer. Ventolin is a case in point, we were told to change to salbutamol, then back to Ventolin again as I believe drug company did a deal.
A few years ago the PCTs employed a Pharmaceutical Advisor each. These quickly multiplied to about 6! Their job seems to be to try and save money by bullying doctors in to changing to cheaper drugs. Some doctors, Stearnes late husband among them was having none of it, he preferred the drug Atorvastatin and said his patients should not be changed to simvastatin. He objected to people changing his patients’ prescriptions without his permission. The day after he retired evidence was published that suggested that Atorvastatin is indeed better than simvastatin!
Delia Stearnes worked in the UK National Health Service (NHS) from the early 1970s, on medical records and waiting lists, the Regional Hospitals Board, medical staffing and started training as a nurse in 1975 until her temporary retirement in 2007. She was given her registration again at the time of the swine flu epidemic and now works in two medical practices part-time.