2008-11-20 Is this the end for Big Pharma
Is this the end for Big Pharma?
Around my town, the burning question is who will Barack Obama put in charge of the food and drug administration – which, granted, is not a topic you might expect to hear talked about down here in the deep south. But Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, is the Silicon Valley of the pharmaceutical world. Not only are the drug manufacturers here, but also the research firms who have built their corporate empires on the status quo.
American public opinion has certainly shifted toward universal healthcare. But will those sweeping changes affect the future of such giants as GSK and Pfizer? America is currently the most profitable market around, and investment in a wide range of investigational drugs is currently a high-risk, high-reward game worth billions a year. Will drug companies be regulated out of existence – or at least out of profitability? Or will there be a seat at the table for Big Pharma in the coming months?
There have been whispers around town about potential new legislation to treat medical and pharmaceutical patents differently from other patents, the aim being to ensure profitable innovation without endangering patient safety. Is it a radical departure - or a stroke of genius? The region shivers with anticipation.
In the Triangle, medicine and research are the major industry. The Duke University medical centre, world-renowned for high-class healthcare and a commitment to the physician-scientist, sits in downtown Durham, while UNC memorial hospital, a sprawling medical research facility, dominates much of central Chapel Hill and employs thousands. North Carolina State University has a plethora of hard science labs, used for veterinary medicine to materials science, that feed directly or indirectly off the research industry. And dozens of smaller firms, fitting specialised needs from rubber gloves to million-dollar scanning equipment, are holding their breath to see how the new administration will shape their futures.
 shorter text
“The new administration's healthcare reforms will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the medical research industry”