For 99% of the medications I prescribe, I can’t tell you the company that produces them. I prefer it that way. Let the efficacy and safety of the medication stand on its own merits, not relying on the “brand power” that the pharmaceutical companies are aiming to create. Which company makes which product plays no role in my prescribing. Unless a company does something to really upset me.
Enter Valeant Pharmaceuticals.
Up until last week, of course I had heard of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, but apart from knowing they are a Montreal-based company, I really had no opinion on them either way.
Here are a collection of news and journal articles about them over the past two months:
Pharmaceutical Companies Buy Rivals’ Drugs, Then Jack Up the Prices – Wall Street Journal, April 27, 2015
Fair pricing of “old” orphan drugs: considerations for Canada’s orphan drug policy – Canadian Medical Association Journal, February 2015
Deal-Making Valeant Pharmaceuticals Intl Inc. Shows No Signs of Slowing Down – The Motley Fool , April 23, 2015
Valeant senior executives scored US$123 million compensation in 2014 – Montreal Gazette, April 17, 2015
All of the above give excellent insight into Valeant’s actions, and I recommend taking the time to read all four. In summary, they are buying old drugs from other companies, and jacking up the prices to exorbitant costs. Then dishing out millions to their executives. It’s like they’ve seen all of the other pharmaceutical companies trying to soften their image recently, and said “Hell no, being the villain is way more lucrative!”.
So I can complain or give you a few quick tips on how to avoid Valeant products until they change their ways (I’ll give you alternatives, but no guarantees that the alternative is cheaper in your area):
1) Acne – They produce Biacna, Aczone, Retin-A, Benzamycin, and Benzaclin. Tactuo would be the alternative (check your local prices).
2) Diabetes – They produce Glumetza. You should have already been prescribing generic metformin for a sliver of the cost, but this is another terrific reason to make the switch.
3) Lipids – They produce Lodalis. Remember, Lodalis has no evidence in reducing hard CV endpoints anyways.
4) Onychomycosis – They produce Penlac and Loprox. Jublia would be the alternative (check your local prices)
5) Asthma – They produce QVAR. Pick another inhaled corticosteroid.
6) Herpes labialis – They produce zovirax. Why are you using topical acyclovir? For the 0.5 day benefit? (Spruance SL, net R, Marbury T, et al. Acyclovir cream for treatment of herpes simplex labialis: results of two randomized, double-blind, vehicle-controlled, multicenter clinical trials. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2002; 46:2238-43.)
Those are the obvious targets for prescribers to make a statement to Valeant against their current practices. I would be happy to soften my stance against some of their products should they start to show some sense of a social conscience.