Personalizing Drugs? or Death of the Blockbuster

A must read — BusinessWeek on Drugs Get Smart:
Doctors are calling it the age of personalized medicine’ as they close in on genetic variations that hint at why one person responds to a drug and another doesn’t, why some people are prone to strokes or heart disease, why one person’s cancer is more aggressive than another’s.”

Bw_drug_cover_1“The shift to drugs tailored to a specific genetic profile will bring massive changes to a pharmaceutical industry long wedded to treatments that can be taken by millions upon millions. Most prescription medicines are now effective for fewer than half of the people who take them — and the side effects can be worse than the illnesses. ‘From a strategic standpoint, of meeting the needs of our customers, the current blockbuster model doesn’t work,’ concedes Sidney Taurel, chairman and CEO of Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY )”

Right! The whole “blockbuster” concept is just WRONG in so many ways: focus on massive profits, the push to re-purpose drugs in order to maximize their market life, the idea that “one size fits all.” My CDE and I have talked about this many times — when we were new to diabetes, we both scratched our heads over why new drugs were always covered in the financial section of the newspaper, rather than the health or lifestyle sections? Why just the investment angle? ‘Cause BIG drugs mean big bucks…

The BW article also mentions the diabetes drug Rezulin as an example of a medicine that continued to be prescribed even while people were dying. The FDA finally had to pull it from the market. Geez… I’m rooting for genetic screening all the way!


5 Responses

  1. Kirk
    Kirk September 15, 2005 at 8:12 am | | Reply


    In 1974 while I was still in the research lab it cost $100,000,000.00 to get a drug on the market. That is why it is a financial decision. If you have ever reviewed Thalidomide you know why the costs are so extraordinary. Also due to the litiginous nature of the US the costs skyrocket; Merck just lost a judgement of over $200,000,000 for Vioxx. By the way Vioxx was allowed to got to market by the FDA. Who’s to blaim; Merck or the FDA?

  2. AmyT
    AmyT September 15, 2005 at 6:01 pm | | Reply

    Be that as it may, even the CEO of a powerful pharma giant like Eli Lilly is stating here that the “blockbuster model” doesn’t work. Let’s see where this rhetoric takes them…

  3. Jesper
    Jesper September 17, 2005 at 5:32 am | | Reply

    An interesting question is whether Eli’s turn away from the blocbuster model towards a culture /model of market orientation will actually lead to better financial results!

    Medical companies at large, and especially those that follow the block buster model, have a major trust issue in the general population, which may severely impact their bottom line. And its growing. Blogs and other customer generated media seems to both illustrate and amplify this.

    My point: Its not either finance or tailored solutions. The two may work hand in hand.

    A big questions is whether corporate leaders in general can detach themselves from the ancient business models/market views and open their eyes to the social dynamics of their work.

    Credit to Eli…



  4. Jo
    Jo September 20, 2005 at 7:12 am | | Reply

    No kidding. I learned this when I started dealing with my thyroid condition. Why do some doctors think one pill will do the same thing for every patient?

  5. Kirk
    Kirk September 20, 2005 at 8:00 am | | Reply

    If you believe the financial model is flawed then ask one question “Why is it the US leads world in new drug development”

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