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Drug Companies: What Is and What Is Not the Problem

Too often, drug companies choose profits over people. I’m sure this statement is true. But the cousin of this argument, drug companies make too much money, I think is flawed.

A story I just read underscores why drug companies can charge $200 for a pill that costs $.05 to make and still be charging a fair price. Inspire Pharmaceuticals suffered an awful setback for both the company and for cystic fibrosis patients when its experimental treatment for cystic fibrosis failed to improve patients’ health in a critical study of the treatment’s safety and efficacy. Their stock fell, good people will probably lose their jobs, and cystic fibrosis patients continue to look to the next horizon for better treatment options. There are a lot of losers for every drug that is not a hit and not just the pharmaceutical company that will have no profits from which to draw for their next experimental treatment.

Why make this point on the Drug Recall Lawyer Blog? Because I think it is important to identify the real problem. When we say these drug companies just make too much money, the fallacy of this argument bleeds into the real truth: businesses, in general, have a tendency to put profits ahead of people and we need effective watchdogs of personal injury lawsuits and government regulation to level off the tendency. This does not mean most businesses do this. Most businesses and most drug companies do the right thing. But too many do the wrong thing and those folks need to be watched like hawks. A big company like Johnson & Johnson has divisions that are like companies. Some are great and some are not so good.

But railing against pharmaceutical companies’ profits is general as opposed to specific examples of individual companies putting profits ahead of safety is not productive and is just plain wrong. I think I can prove this. If you think drug companies are too profitable, go buy some pharmaceutical stocks on the NYSE. If you don’t, they are not too profitable.