Issues in the Pharmaceutical Industry

by Scott Christ; Updated September 26, 2017
The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most highly regulated industries.

The pharmaceutical industry has historically been an industry filled with scrutiny. From Food and Drug Administration regulations, to prescription drug costs, to questionable marketing methods—the pharmaceutical business has been the source of much debate. It's important to remember that the pharmaceutical industry is responsible for developing life-altering drugs for millions of people. However, the industry definitely has its share of issues.

Prescription Drug Costs

Perhaps the biggest issue in the pharmaceutical industry is the cost of prescription drugs. Many people criticize pharmaceutical companies because the high cost of certain medications makes some of these drugs accessible only to those who can afford them. This means that people with a lower socioeconomic status may not get the same drugs as people with money, and this leads to negative and disparate health outcomes in poorer populations. Although prescription drugs can be high, these medicines can help reduce patient hospitalization rates, help patients avoid expensive medical procedures, and decrease health care costs through prevention and management of chronic diseases. Although the cost of pharmaceutical drugs continues to be an issue, pharmaceutical companies are helping lower-income patients offset some of these costs through patient assistance programs.

FDA Issues

The FDA regulates every pharmaceutical product that is produced. There is a stringent process that pharmaceutical companies must go through when submitting a drug for approval to the FDA. This process can take several years, which is why FDA regulations and processes are an issue in the pharmaceutical industry. If a company is developing a life-saving medication and it takes 2 to 3 years for this medication to be approved, this can affect the health outcomes of many patients. Fortunately, the FDA does has an accelerated approval process for drugs that it deems to be life-saving in nature. While the lengthy approval process ensures the safety of drugs entering the marketplace, it also inhibits chronically diseased patients from getting these medications in a timely manner.

Marketing Issues

One criticism of the pharmaceutical industry is that they engage in unethical marketing practices to promote their products. Two authorities are responsible for helping resolve issues with pharmaceutical marketing. The first is the Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising and Communications (DDMAC), a division of the FDA that has policies and rules for every drug company advertisement and training piece produced. The other is the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). PhRMA produces a set of guidelines that the majority of pharmaceutical companies abide by when producing marketing materials. Nevertheless, pharmaceutical marketing and advertising continues to be an issue and the source of much debate.

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