3 Sneaky New Ways Big Pharma Is Churning Profits in 2014

Martha Rosenberg

If you are like most people, you have been watching “Ask Your Doctor” drug ads on TV for years. The ads, called direct-to-consumer drug advertising, have done two amazing things. They have made drugs like Claritin, Lipitor and the “Purple Pill” financial blockbusters–and they have, to a certain extent, “sold” the conditions behind them.

While certainly the conditions the drugs treat like seasonal allergies, GERD, high cholesterol, depression, bipolar disorder, adult ADHD, erectile dysfunction, Low T, irritable bowel syndrome, dry eye and insomnia exist, “awareness” of the conditions has greatly increased thanks to drug ads. In fact the parade of symptoms viewers may suffer from has gotten so over the top, comedian Chris Rock said he was ready to hear a TV ad asking, “Do you fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning? You may be suffering from…”

For many years, consumer drug advertising made Big Pharma Fortune 500’s “most profitable industry.” But now, the profit party is largely over, with blockbusters like Prozac, Lipitor, Viagra, Zyprexa, Symbicort and Nexium off patent and nothing much in the pipelines. WebMD, one of the strongest online pill merchandisers , dismissed 250 employees a year and a half ago and medical journals are noticeably page light with fewer ads. Once booming companies are nowseeking mergers commensurate with the Wall Street aphorism that in boom times companies spin off and in bust times they merge.

Four years ago Pfizer merged with Wyeth, Merck merged with Schering-Plough and Roche merged with Genentech. Now Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, and Eli Lilly are pursuing protective financial partnerships as the day of the drug blockbuster is over.

Still there are three diseases/conditions which Pharma is hoping may see it through the current lean times.

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