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Will Drug Detox for Prescription Drugs Be Affected by Big Pharma Losses?
With 40,000 jobs lost and more cut-backs expected, Big Pharma is shrinking. But before you breathe a sigh of relief, the industry wide reductions occurring among most Big Pharma corporations will probably create even more of a need, not less, for prescription drug detox programs.
Some Big Pharma players are divesting themselves of non-pharma business divisions, and others are cutting less profitable operations. According to an article in Guardian Unlimited, Swiss drug maker Novartis AG has announced a layoff of 2,500 employees – and this is only the latest in a rash of desperate cost-cutting measures made by Big Pharma. Just a week ago, Bristol-Myers Squibb announced plans to dump 10 percent of its work force and close some plants, and French drug firm Sanofi-Aventis has announced spending cuts. All the other big players have already taken steps to meet shrinking profit margins, including Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Amgen, Schering-Plough, Eli Lilly and Johnson & Johnson.
Big Pharma’s corporate cut-backs are a response to the problems the industry is having coming up with new pharmaceuticals, because research labs are not delivering new drugs as expected. Patents on many profitable brand-name drugs are expiring over the next few years, with nothing to replace them. The competition from generic drugs is increasing, too, and as patents expire, popular branded drugs will become generic. There won’t be any less drugs, they’ll just be cheaper, which can only mean more demand for drug detox as more people become dependent on prescriptions.
Drugs that have been assigned “black box” warning labels by the FDA, or have been withdrawn because of their risks, have cost Big Pharma billions of dollars. Thousands of people have wound up needing drug detox because of some of them, never mind those who wound up in a morgue. Doctors and patients alike are avoiding such drugs, including similar ones that haven’t been withdrawn.
For example, Merck pulled its arthritis painkiller Vioxx off the market in 2004 because of serious cardiovascular side effects. But according to a survey, 47% of patients using Vioxx would have kept on using it if it had remained on the market – even knowing the risk! But half of the former Vioxx users stopped using similar prescriptions altogether, including Pfizer’s Celebrex – the only drug of the same type as Vioxx still allowed on the US market, but which also carries a strong warning label. Merck lost all of Vioxx’s $2.5 billion in yearly sales, but then 60% of Celebrex users dropped the drug out of safety concerns too. Before the Vioxx recall, Celebrex was expected to earn $4 billion in 2005, and now gets only $2 billion a year from worldwide sales.
Meanwhile, a whole generation of new drugs is coming, with unknown side effects and possible dependencies. The smaller so-called “biotech” companies who aren’t part of Big Pharma continue to come up with new drugs that are hurting Big Pharma’s bottom line, and also adding to the list of drugs that drug detox centers might have to deal with.
It appears that the need for drug detox will continue to increase in spite of the slowdown in Big Pharma. In fact, the need for drug detox might increase even faster than before, because of how much cheaper generic drugs are than brand name drugs. Millions of people are already dependent on prescription drugs with no safety net other than drug detox. But the loss of valuable drug patents will mean more, cheaper drugs and more need for prescription drug detox program facilities, not less.
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