The pharmaceutical industry, also known as "Big Pharma" is one of the most profitable sectors of industrialized countries, competing with the profits of the petrochemical industry, of the world of finance and of the food industry.
This industry consists of companies and their shareholders, and has only one purpose: to make money.
Sales in the global market for the pharmaceutical industry generated more than $ 602 billion in 2005, of which 47% in North America alone.1
France is the largest consumer of drugs in Europe2 as the French consume an average of 50 boxes of medicines per year.
The French pharmaceutical industry has one sales agent for every 10 doctors and will spend up to € 20,000 in "gifts" per year, per doctor.3
These sales representatives approach doctors to prescribe a particular drug or a brand and search for hospitals or clinics to test their drugs through clinical trials.
Marketing costs can sometimes exceed those of drug development.
Commercials for prescription drugs are widely broadcast on television and radio in the United States and New Zealand.4
In Europe, because of distrust of the lack of objectivity of advertising and the possible pressure by patients on their doctors, only advertising of over-the-counter drugs is allowed.
The European Commission has nevertheless adopted on December 10, 2008, draft legislation allowing in the near future pharmaceutical companies to communicate their products directly to patients, but "only certain channels are allowed for the dissemination of information, including Internet and health publications as defined by Member States in which they will be published.Television and radio are excluded ».5
This would, inter alia, enable laboratories to make publicly available information on their prescription drugs, to deal with the appearance of counterfeit drugs and to strengthen drug monitoring.
Hopefully this is not an attempt to gradually get us used to advertising.
Pharmaceutical companies must also invest in the development of new drugs, because they are inventing not only less medication flagships - the so-called "blockbusters" that are supposed to generate more than one billion euros per year - but the new drugs have problems in proving their effectiveness compared to existing ones.
Some promising compounds can also be dropped in the clinical phase because they would ultimately not be profitable enough or because they have too dangerous side effects.
Sometimes a drug already on the market is slightly modified (addition of a molecule, taste, ingredients ...) and then sold under a new name.
Occasionally the name does not change, just the method of administration, for example, a drug in tablet form will become an oral solution.
A source of concern for laboratories is that their drugs, which are protected by patents for twenty years, gradually fall into the public domain.
Generic drugs are flooding the market and are cheaper than the originals. They can lose about 80% of their sales when their generic drug enters the market.6 Some companies create their own generic drugs.
Consolidation of the pharmaceutical industry is growing as a means of reducing competition.
Mergers can also reduce costs by shutting down sites performing the same research or by sharing technology and knowledge.
Fewer laboratories will mean more power over the government.
It is in the interest of the latter that the industry remains in a particular region, even in the country itself. (See Pharma History diagram).