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Steven Davis
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New Generation Anticoagulants: Profits Over Patients?

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When a new medication hits the market, is the emphasis on how many people will it help, or how much money will it make?

Nine out of Ten of the Big Pharma companies now spend more on marketing their products than on research and development, according to Global Data. Furthermore, according to the World Health Organization, this pressure to maintain sales presents an “inherent conflict of interest between the legitimate business goals of manufacturers and the social, medical and economic needs of providers and the public to select and use drugs in the most rational way.”

Blood-clot fighters are expected to grow faster than any other drug over the next five years and the financial stakes are enormous. It should be no surprise, that Big Pharma has focused a lot of their marketing budgets fighting for a piece of this market share.

Warfarin vs. the New Generation Anticoagulants

Amid a blitz of advertising, patients and their physicians are left to weigh the pros and the cons of the blood thinners currently on the market, taking into consideration cost, convenience, and safety.

Warfarin, the inexpensive generic form of Coumadin, costs only $80 to $100 a year, but can be a hassle for doctors and patients because weekly blood tests are needed to determine the proper dose, it has drug interactions with a number of other medications, and its absorption is affected by certain foods, making dietary changes necessary. But warfarin does have an antidote, vitamin K, which quickly and easily reverses any bleeding events the patient may experience.

The new generation blood thinners Xarelto and Pradaxa are not available in generic form, may not be covered by insurance, and are expensive: Xarelto costs upwards of $3,000 a year, for example. The new generation blood thinners don’t require frequent blood tests and have few drug interaction issues, but they have no approved antidote to stop uncontrolled hemorrhaging, and the manufacturer’s one-size-fits-all dosing may not be accurate, putting patients at dangerous risk.

Profits Over Patients?

According to Forbes, although a pharmaceutical company is in the business of making drugs, it better make profits, too. The companies responsible for discovering and developing life saving drugs must do so in a way that generates significant profits, and if they don’t, investors will take their money elsewhere, no matter how many lives could potentially be saved or how many lawsuits might be filed.