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by Chris Anderson  |  Email the author

OK, so now we're getting somewhere. I'm sure the publisher and associate publisher of this publication will cringe at this statement, but sometimes half the fun of what we do as editors at any publication — be it trade or consumer – is to get under the skin of our readers. We don't do this intentionally, mind you. But it is also inevitable that when a newspaper is read by thousands of people each month, you're going to ruffle some feathers.
More often than not, letters come to us as a result of what we say in our editorials. At least that is my hope, since what we do on the rest of the pages of Drug Discovery News is intended as straightforward, non-biased industry news. But in here, on the editorial pages, we get to have an opinion. Not that you've heard many of mine yet, since I'm still getting my feet wet and learning the complexities of the industry. Fear not, my editorials will begin to have at least a little bite, soon.
Randy Willis, however, is a different story (those of you who know him are already shaking your heads – but that's not what I mean).
If there's one writer stamped with "been there, done that" on our staff, it is Randy.
And because Randy has both a distinctive style and opinions galore on industry happenings, we thought it was much too little to only let him spread his wings once a month. Now, via our e-Newsletter (more on that later), Randy gets to provide his unique take on the drug discovery industry twice every month, not including his regular print editorial here.
Below, is the commentary Randy provided for our very first e-Newsletter last month. And at the end of this column is a letter from a reader, who, well, didn't quite agree with Randy.
I think this is great. It's great from our standpoint, because it means we are engaging our readers, be it online or in print. Again, you may think I'm crazy, but one of the ultimate compliments you can pay an editor is to tell him that the editorial he wrote last month is a piece of you-know-what.
In fairness, we did receive letters in support of what Randy wrote, but it is also fair and necessary to provide our readers with an opposing viewpoint. After all, this is your newspaper. It is already filled with your business dealings, so don't be afraid to fill it with your opinions, too.
And if you want to get even more relevant industry information, twice monthly, delivered to your desktop, be sure to visit to sign up for our e-Newsletter.
Now, on to the letter:
Randall Willis' editorial, "In a class of its own", sounds like it was written by someone in the PR department at PhRMA. If the pharmaceutical industry is suffering from public outrage over prices, adverse side effects, increased regulation, what Willis' derisively dismisses as "rhetoric", it is because the wounds are self-inflicted. Like most industries the upper managers of pharmaceutical companies do not want to improve their industry unless the specific steps to do so result in more compensation for them—a take the money and run attitude of irresponsibility toward less powerful stakeholders and society.
The reluctance of pharmaceutical company managment to reveal all their clinical trials tells us much about their altruistic sentiments. The reluctance of pharmaceutical companies to clean up their manufacturing processes and use IT more extensively to reduce GMP fines, sometimes in the hundreds of millions of dollars per violation per company, tells us that they are awash in profits and irresponsibly managed. When the manufacturing process is properly done the cost per pill is near zero yet the economics of reducing prices in order to increase volume and thus make more money does not seem to occurred to pharma management.  This could be more altruistic and more profitable. Moreover, pharmaceutical companies could do a better job of managing their risk/benefit profiles. For example, they could set aside a percent of sales of specific drugs to compensate those patients who have adverse reactions in lieu of litigation. Done properly, this would fairly compensate those people harmed by drugs and improve the image of pharmaceutical companies. There is much that can be done now by the industry to help itself and society while we're working toward better solutions based on genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, etc.
 —Tom Shillock, M2 Consulting, Portland, Ore.



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