22 April 2020 marks D-Day for Viagra – Pfizer’s famous diamond-shaped blue pill – as it is set to lose out on market exclusivity in the United States. Having witnessed the mind-boggling sales of the drug for two decades now, we take a look at how it has impacted the industry, and what lies in store for the little pill that never really harbored blockbuster dreams.
In any money-spinning industry, there are bound to be impersonators and fakes. When the Romans first discovered Greek statues, it didn’t take long for imitations to flood the market. Similarly the pharmaceutical industry is a target for fraudsters hoping for a lucrative share of the sales. Unlike forged art however, counterfeit medicines can lead to serious illness – even death – to patients who consume them.
You’re a little under the weather – nothing too serious; your doctor prescribes antibiotics and you should soon be well. But what if your symptoms continue to get worse, and your meds don’t work? This is a scenario that – in the U.S. alone – 2 million people are confronted with every year. The cause? Antibiotic-resistant microorganisms, or ‘superbugs’.
Recent public concern over pharmaceutical companies pulling out of antibiotic R&D is directly attributed to the life-threatening consequences these ‘superbugs’ could have if we run out treatment options. But what exactly are ‘superbugs’?
Remember those ‘get out of jail free’ cards in the board game Monopoly, with somewhat dubious value (i.e. you’d sell them right before you landed in jail) that could get you back on track quicker? It turns out that this express ticket exists in the drug discovery world, and we’ll take you on this multi-million dollar ride.
Why does regulation matter in drug discovery? It may seem like a big obstacle in the path to delivering novel medicines to patients, delaying their treatment and prolonging discomfort. But how do we know that the drugs we take actually have their intended purpose? Are we aware of any potential side effects/adverse reactions? This is a true story of how a heroine dared to ask these questions, and saved a nation in the process.