Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


pfixin' pfor a pfight
April 13, 2004 1:32 PM   Subscribe

Pfix Pfizer: Pfizer, maker of several drugs including Lipitor used to lower cholesterol, has launched a lawsuit against Canadian web sites selling its drugs or knock-offs at a lower cost to Americans. They claim that it's a matter of safety for their users, and that costs are for the insurance companies to quibble. However many Minnesota seniors have fired back that it's a matter of sales, and are seeking to 'pfix pfizer' as they are unable to afford some of these life-saving medications. [more inside]
posted by FunkyHelix (17 comments total)

 
Link rundown:
Pfizer targets Canadian Pipeline

It's a copy-right issue. Really.

AARP points fingers

Boycott called

Fairdrugprices.org

Previous mefi discussion
posted by FunkyHelix at 1:35 PM on April 13, 2004


Hmm. This sounds interestingly similar to the squealing that entertainment and clothing companies do when a shop decides to offer "grey imports". Multinational corporations seem to think it's just fine for them to take advantage of globalisation to send work where wages are lowest, but absolutely wrong for their customers to import goods from regions where they're sold more cheaply. The doublethink involved in it amazes me.
posted by reklaw at 1:45 PM on April 13, 2004


This is why medicine and profit-margins are a bad mix.
posted by Dark Messiah at 2:01 PM on April 13, 2004


The irony is that they claim drugs from outside the country are not safe and yet Lipitor and Viagra are both made in Ireland, where the company gets very nice tax break.
posted by Postroad at 2:20 PM on April 13, 2004


As an aside, other industries already have this sweet deal. I guess the pharmaceutical chaps want their due, so to speak.

For example, Used to be one could get a good deal on camping, climbing goods etc. from MEC in Canada. For the last few years, most anything except for their house brands are tagged This product can only be shipped within Canada. This caveat is due to the same behavior Pfizer is using here. Manufacturers pull distributorships/authorized retailer status from anyone that sells to the US.

I guess this is a bigger deal and getting noticed because it can be life or death, and seniors are a big and active voting block.
posted by jester69 at 2:22 PM on April 13, 2004


The irony is that they claim drugs from outside the country are not safe and yet Lipitor and Viagra are both made in Ireland, where the company gets very nice tax break.

Manufacturing plants which produce drugs to be sold in the U.S. are subject to (and receive) FDA inspection, regardless of whether the plants are in the U.S. or not.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:33 PM on April 13, 2004


Manufacturing plants which produce drugs to be sold in the U.S. are subject to (and receive) FDA inspection, regardless of whether the plants are in the U.S. or not.

So then what is the safety problem in buying these name-brand drugs from Canada at reduced prices?
posted by botono9 at 2:48 PM on April 13, 2004


I always find the "safety" concerns the pharma companies use (through the FDA) laughable. It isn't like Canadian versions of the drugs are mixed in bathtubs. And Canada's version of the FDA is just as meticulous as the USian version. Most likely the products are made in the same factory and the only difference is the packaging.
posted by birdherder at 3:02 PM on April 13, 2004


they fear for the safety of their profits, nothing else. drugs approved by the HPFB Inspectorate (and the 2 other branches of gov't that are involved in ok-ing drugs in canada) are just as safe, if not moreso, than drugs inspected by the FDA.

pfizer et al are treating their american customers as if they're complete idiots, who live in some sort of vacuum, and it doesn't seem to be going over really well... especially amongst the older folks who know damn well that things are safe on this side of the 49th.
posted by t r a c y at 3:05 PM on April 13, 2004


Does ANYONE take the AARP seriously anymore now that they've sold out their members to big Pharma with that medicare bill endorsement? Check out the AARP link if you havent already:

Now, check out our web-exclusive guide to alternative brand-name and generic drugs that might replace boycotted drugs from suppliers choking off the Canadian pipeline.

The guide basically says "Oh, if you can't get the Pfizer one, here's one from Merck or Roche or P&G that you can pay full un-negotiated US price for...

Makes me sick.

Also on preview, what Recklaw says, but include labor. If my job can move, shouldn't I be able to follow it? If borders are open for capital, what about goods and labor? Fair's fair.
posted by ubi at 4:37 PM on April 13, 2004


I love it. Reduce overall federal state funding to levels that force states like Minnesota to actively encourage people to look for ways to save their precious ducats, but make sure it doesn't affect a bunch of rich assholes' bottom line.

Hey Mr. Medicine Man, you wanna get paid? Support a universal health care plan. In the end, the middle class will end up sharing most of the cost, and you can get near full price from the evil gub'ment. But no, that would be too forward-thinking...
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:55 PM on April 13, 2004


Pharmaceutical companies depend on the temporary monopoly of intellectual property protection to earn profits. They use variable pricing models to extract maximum profit from local markets during the brief firefly life of their newly discovered lifesaving drugs. It is hardly unfair when you compare the effective 10yr protection of drugs vs. the indefinite protection of Janet Jackson lyrics and chest rending.

How can people not understand that no one will conduct hundred million dollar clinical trials on agents they cannot later sell exclusively?

If the business model of pharmaceutical companies are effectively undermined by selfish oldsters and ignorant hipsters one should ask... where will tomorrow's cures come from?

As is often the case homosexuals will likely learn this rough lesson first. Their push for free HIV drugs for destitute Africans redefined profit potential for drugs against HIV. HIV drugs are likely to assume the same profit expectations as antimalarial agents. When was the last time you saw a new antimalarial drug introduced to the market? Good luck with resistant strains y'all.
posted by paleocon at 5:02 PM on April 13, 2004


Paleocon, I hear this argument all the time, yet I have to wonder: how many of the "cures of tomorrow" have come from Big Business, and how many have come from universities or individual geniuses with no care of their bottom line?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:23 PM on April 13, 2004


Safety?

Yeah. I mean, in the newspaper yesterday (I'm Canadian), I just saw someone die from taking two Tylenols, eh?

And that was in the "Death from Medicine non-Abuse" column. We have a whole column for it, you know! On weekends they make it entire newspaper section, usually section 'MI5'. Above it was death from piaprism due to viagra, death from advil due to falling off a bridge and not feeling it, all sorts of deaths.

Oh shit, I just had some Alka Seltzer. OH HELL! GREEN SHIT SPEWING ALL OVER OUT OF ME. HELP ME! WHAT IS THAT PUNCHING IT'S WAY THROUGH MY STOMACH! GET BACK HERE, MONSTER! *FUMP* *DEAD*.
posted by shepd at 7:07 PM on April 13, 2004


Civil_Disobedient, I'm not aware that universities or "individual geniuses" have brought a broadly useful drug to the market since the FDA was formed. In fact, I recall that that was why the FDA was formed; to keep hair-brained nuts from introducing any old thing promising unsubstantiated great cures.
posted by paleocon at 7:17 PM on April 13, 2004


The catch-22 of the pharmaceutical industry is that all the upfront R&D for a drug is incredibly expensive; but once a drug is all tested and approved, the manufacturing is relatively inexpensive. Also, the R&D costs include not just the costs of the drugs that actually make it to market; for every drug that makes it to market, there are thousands that fail in molecular and cellular testing; hundreds that fail in animal testing; and dozens that fail in human testing.

Thus, the patient says, "it's unconscionable that you're charging me $10 a dose for this lifesaving drug when it only costs you $0.10 per dose to manufacture it" while the company says "well, how are we going to recoup the hundreds of millions we've spent on R&D?"

I don't have a complete answer for that. CD's universal health plan, as well as the pharma companies' own low-income programs such as this one provide a partial solution--where middle and upper class Americans would effectively shoulder most of the R&D costs, providing relief to poor Americans--but it doesn't address the question of whether those middle-to-upper class Americans should be effectively subsidizing drug costs for all Canadians, rich or poor.

As for the profits which Dark Messiah and t r a c y seem to believe are the source of the high prices, that's part of it, but not as much as many people seem to think. For example, Pfizer's 2003 revenues were $45.2B, of which $3.9B--8.6%--was profit. You can only cut the cost of drugs so much until you've cut out all the profits and start cutting into expenses, or R&D for future drugs. In other words, if drugs were developed by government or non-profits, they would cost somewhat less, but not as much as everyone would like.

how many of the "cures of tomorrow" have come from Big Business

More than you would think. Pharma companies don't just randomly throw a whole bunch of compounds into people and see what works; they identify "targets" (naturally occuring molecules, such as enzymes or receptors) within the body which are related to certain conditions and try to design compounds specifically to effect those targets.

For example, if you're looking to treat pain due to arthritis, you may know that an enzyme called cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2 for short) is instrumental in the biochemical processes which cause that pain. If you find a compound that blocks COX2, you may be able to treat the pain. (If it's nontoxic in humans. And if it can survive the harsh conditions of the stomach and make it into the bloodstream. And if it doesn't break down too fast once it's in the blood.)

How do we know that COX2 is critical in that type of pain? Well, yes, that sort of knowledge comes from the type of research done in universities. But as far as the identification of particular compounds which affect the target, as well as the suitability of those compounds for human use, that's largely done by pharma companies.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:42 PM on April 13, 2004


When was the last time you saw a new antimalarial drug introduced to the market?

Well, thanks to the beneficence of Mr. Bill and Melinda Gates, you'll likely see something new very soon. Mind you, they're not doing it for the money... as you say, it's unlikely that AIDS or Malaria research will pay your bills.

I'm not aware that universities or "individual geniuses" have brought a broadly useful drug to the market since the FDA was formed.

Well, now you're talking about two different things: "discovering" and "bringing to market". Bringing to market means testing, filling out lots of paperwork, etc. That's not to say that modern pharmaceutical companies don't discover their fair share of medicines, but most of their stuff is targeted at ailments that either cover a large market share of middle-class people (like allergies) or at specific problems that tend to surround people with lots of excess money (anti-cholesterol, anti-anxiety, gastrointestinal distress, etc.) One of the last good "cures" that was for everybody was for Polio; before that you had penicillin. I'll take penicillin over Alovert any day of the week.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:26 PM on April 14, 2004


« Older Eyeglasses Warehouse: Vintage Eyeglasses and Antiq...  |  "We are now deep in the trackl... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments