WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT The drug industry is undergoing a major paradigm shift. Companies that traditionally have relied on blockbuster drugs are finding that model running dry as their biggest money-makers face competition from generics that eventually will lead to a heavily commoditized market for the disease states that have been the foundation for the model, such as high cholesterol, asthma, mental illness and gastroesophageal reflux disease.
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In response, many are changing their focus to high-value specialty drugs, especially biotech drugs. For drug companies, it’s just their way of adapting to survive. But it’s also driving a shift in the world of pharmacy, feeding the growth of specialty pharmacy and, in turn, changing the role of the pharmacist in health care, all the while creating opportunities for retail pharmacies to embrace specialty pharmacy as a driver of growth as the “genericization” of pharmaceuticals threatens to dampen their sales figures.
It’s a trend that’s likely to continue. Pfizer’s acquisition of Wyeth, Merck’s acquisition of Schering-Plough, Roche’s acquisition of the remainder of Genentech and, most recently, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s acquisition of ZymoGenetics, as well as Sanofi-Aventis’ efforts to buy Genzyme, are just the largest examples of the pharma shift under way.