Monday, August 3, 2009

By Stuart Chaifetz

The Dark Side of Big Pharma: Part 1 - Hitting Us Where it Hurts

I’m kicking off another multi-part blog series, this time focusing on the actions of Pharmaceutical companies.  
As anyone who has a dog or cat knows, when you take them to the vet for a shot or medication, by the time you pay the bill, all that is left in your wallet is either a small puff of dust, or a credit card wilted and bruised from the electronic fiscal beating it had just taken.

In the past couple of months I’ve felt this personally. Both of my dogs, Theseus and Tiberius, have had to make trips to the vet that left me wondering if that was an antibiotic my dog had, or did they just pump liquid gold into his backside. It turns out that it was both.

I happened upon this article “Merck Selling Stake in Animal Venture,”  which drew my curiosity because I thought it might have something to do with using animals for experimental purposes. Turns out it had nothing to do with that, but was another Pharmaceutical merger/acquisition story.  

According to the report, Merck is selling “its stake in a big animal-health joint venture for $4 billion,” because of regulatory issues due to its merger with Schering-Plough. It’s somewhat complicated, and if you are interested in learning more I suggest that you read the whole story. The specific aspect of the article that I do want to talk about starts with this:
“Animal health has always been a natural fit for pharmaceutical companies...”  and then we get to the center of it: 
“Moreover, because there are no insurers or national health officials trying to keep costs down, companies can set their own prices for animal medicines — products that are bought directly by veterinarians and the owners of pets or livestock.”
Wow. Did anyone else just feel the pain in their assets like I just did?  That’s a blunt and hardcore statement of what a killing Pharmaceutical companies can make off of dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, birds and every other animal that ever uses one of their products. 
Bear in mind that this article was not an expose´ or meant to inform the public that we are being taken for all we are worth, but was instead meant to show how and why animal health is such an important financial issue for Big Pharma.  Here’s another quote:
“Animal health products “were traditionally the stepchild of the pharmaceutical industry because they had lower margins,” said David S. Moskowitz, chief of equity research at Caris & Company. “Now they are the crown jewels, because they are growing faster than traditional pharmaceuticals.””
When Pharmaceutical companies “can set their own prices for animal medicines,”  we who love and care for our animals are left to their mercy.  It would take a stronger man than I who could look into the eyes of his animal in need and not be willing to pay any price to help them.  
This effects all of us, and, as the article goes on to tell, it appears that it is going to get worse; with other coming mergers, power over a majority of animal health will fall into the hands of two Big Pharma companies. And that means it’s going to continue to get more expensive to visit the vet and get health care for our beloved animal family members.

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