Embracing the Antihero

Often vilified, authorized generics can be the silent protectors of profits

By Karen Langhauser, Chief Content Director

I appreciate the controversy that surrounds the antiheroes of the comic book world. Flawed and lacking conventional heroic qualities, the antihero always seems like a more realistic depiction of success. They are not always larger than life, nor are they beloved by the masses.

As far as comic heroes go, Batman has always been my favorite. There seems to be some debate in the comic world as to whether or not Batman should be classified as an antihero, but I tend to consider him as such. While the Gotham City citizens applauded the masked vigilante for his crime-fighting, these same citizens feared him, unable to trust what his existence means for their future.

Batman as a human is not straightforward - he is complex and two-sided. While Batman is working to save lives, Bruce Wayne is a privileged billionaire. This is most likely a familiar duality for those working in the pharmaceutical industry: straddling the line between saving sick patients and staying profitable. And as this month’s cover story discusses, authorized generics are a prime example of this dual struggle. AGs, often seen as anti-generic by those in the generic industry, catch heat for a few reasons - chief among them the critique that their entry into the market tends to delay the introduction of larger numbers of generic products.

Even the idea of the AG itself can come across as a little shadowy: producing a product the same as the original branded drug, but masking its identity by putting it in different packaging - especially when the very same company is producing both the brand drug and the authorized generic.

But billions of dollars are at stake when it comes to approaching patent cliffs, and lifecycle management is imperative. Research cited in our cover story found that implementing an authorized generics strategy produces a 5,100% ROI - higher than any other lifecycle management strategy examined in the research.

While the implementation of AGs is very much an unsung practice (after all, no one wants to call attention to a brand product at the end of its patent life), two out of five branded pharmaceutical companies have used AGs as a competitive tactic, and there are about 1,000 AGs on the market.

Perhaps Batman’s motivations can be argued as selfish (avenging his parents’ brutal murder) and his methods toe the line of legality, but one can also say that the end results serve the greater good. The same argument can be made for lifecycle management strategies in pharma; after spending hundreds of millions of dollars to develop and launch new drugs, recouped monies may very well be lining the pockets of the industry, but they also serve to fund future innovation.

If we’ve learned anything from today’s political climate, it’s that Americans no longer expect virtuous protagonists. The line between good and evil has grown increasingly ambiguous. When it comes to post-patent profitability, authorized generics may just be the next controversial hero, and it’s ok if you are not quite sure how you feel about that; it’s complicated, as the business of saving lives tends to be.

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