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3 Ways Drug Safety is Like Car Sales in the 1980’s

Posted by Jim Davis on May 30, 2014
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Before I get a lot of nasty emails, let me start by saying that although the reader could infer that I am, I ensure you that I AM NOT comparing pharma sales reps to used car salesmen. What I am doing is comparing the pharmaceutical industry, specifically drug safety, to the used car industry before the widespread proliferation of the World Wide Web.

The first way drug safety is like car sales in the1980’s:

1.)The seller controls the majority of the information.

In his fantastic book, To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others,Daniel Pink discusses the transition from the principle of caveat emptor, or buyer beware, to caveat venditor let the seller beware. Information asymmetry, where the seller has more information than the buyer, has all but disappeared. Most buyers who walk into a car dealership today have as much, if not more information than the seller. This puts them on an equal playing field. However, this dynamic is still not the case with drug safety. The pharmaceutical companies hold the power. Post-approval side effect data is not easily accessible. Clinical trial results are becoming more transparent thanks to groups like AllTrials, but, by and large, information asymmetry still exists and heavily favors the seller.

Which leads me to the second way drug safety is like car sales in the 1980’s:

2.) The sellers are making money even if the drug turns out to be a lemon.

The really bad used car dealer of yesteryear used information asymmetry to sucker buyers into accepting a really bad deal. The buyer had no idea if the car was involved in an 8 car pile-up on I-495 and had to be rebuilt from the tires up until 3 weeks after the purchase when the problems started to show themselves. Drugs are the same way - clinical trials can reveal some safety concerns before the drugs come to market, but it is not until they get out into the hands of the masses that we see the deaths, hospitalizations, and other life threatening outcomes from the side effects start to pile up. If the buyer, in this case the managed care organizations who are providing market access, had a way to see what is happening in real time, these risks could be mitigated, and the “lemons” could be singled out sooner.

The final way drug safety is like car sales in the 1980’s:

3.) The buyers have no way of knowing what other buyers’ experiences are.

In today’s world of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Yelp, Whateversocialmediaappisnext, there is no way a sleazy dealer would get away with anything, well, sleazy. As soon as a buyer knew the car was a lemon, his network would know about it. He would find others who had the same experience and it would continue to go viral until they were walking tail-between-the-legs in the median on Route 1 on the Norwood Auto Mile. Today, most buyers do not have a way to properly benchmark the side effects they are seeing with a drug to what may be happening on a global scale. There is no way of knowing if an adverse reaction is just a 1-off incident or a trend. Having this type of information available can help managed care organizations, as well as providers, make better decisions.

The good news is that the information asymmetry that exists doesn’t have to. Customers of AdverseEvents for example, have access to post-approval side effect data with analytics designed to better react to events that occur, proactively mitigate risk, and set future priorities that help to shift the balance of power from the seller to the buyer.

See for yourself. Start a 7-day trial of AdverseEvents Explorer today.



Jim Davis

Jim Davis

Executive Vice President

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Topics: Drug Safety, Managed Care Organization, Clinical Trials, pharmaceutical industry

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