Washington, DC. Mar. 6th, 2005 ---- There is a dangerous facet to the slogan used by US Healthcare and Pharmaceutical suppliers, that the customer "needs choice" and that the marketprice should be free of government interference.
Well the obvious answer to the pharmaceutical prices is to allow free competition, and the import of pharmaceuticals from China etc., subject to quality control inspection by a new efficient FDA. The computer industry tried to fight it, the consumer electronics, and every other industry, and they all lost. Joe Public sees no problem in getting his prescription filled at WalMart with Chinese pharmaceuticals if they are much cheaper than US brands.
I hope we never see it, and I would like to see more manufacturing back in the US. But it is appealing to Joe Public and with the very slim vote majority of the Republicans could become a factor in the future.
The sad fact is that the buying power of the majority of households is slipping and in many cases is well below that needed to support the sky high prices charged to US customers.
The "bogey man" scare tactics of PhRMA, the lobbying organization of the industry in Washington will only go so far. It does not stand up to a comparison test in a laboratory, and someone will eventually do an independent evaluation.
Already there is backlash against the huge increase in TV advertising for pharmaceuticals, and with the withdrawal by government of heavily advertised Vioxx, and Celebrex this can hardly be swept under the lobbyists carpet. There are far more serious issues to be addressed than these high profile withdrawals but the damage to the industry credibility and image has to be taken very seriously. The seizing of Paxil CR and Avandamet tablets made by pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline hardly paints a picture of confidence in US management and quality control. It makes objections to importing drugs from other countries a little false. The fact that the pills were made in low cost Puerto Rico and packed in Tennessee does somewhat dilute their case.
But at the end of the day the mechanisms are being put in place by governments to create a global inspection and quality control regime. Then the pharmaceutical industry will follow the other manufacturing industries who lost lost to China. But come to think of it where are the pills made? Why doesn't the package identify that? Could it be that is another story waiting to break?