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Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Develop blockbusters for the largest populations; crank out millions of tablets with little variation to reduce costs; and don’t worry much about smaller patient populations.

By MIKE AUERBACH, Editor, Pharmaceutical Processing

Cruises are fun. Cruises are great. Who wouldn’t want to be wined and dined on a large and luxurious ocean liner for several days without a care in the world? But cruise ship operators are in the business of making money — and the bigger the ship — the more people they can get on board — the more money they can make.

And with this increase in size comes limitations. In order to efficiently feed more than 3,000 people three meals a day — specialization and personalization are sacrificed.

This fact was brought home during a recent cruise my family took. My wife, who has to eat gluten-free, was shocked at the lack of choices available to her — even though her request was noted months in advance on our pre-boarding information. Questions to cruise staff as to what was gluten-free were often met with a blank stare and a finger pointing to the salad bar.

The big ship known as “big pharma” has operated under this guise for many years: Bigger is better. Discover, develop and market blockbusters to the largest populations available; crank out millions of tablets, with little variation to improve efficiency and reduce costs; and don’t worry too much about smaller patient populations.

Well, we all know what has happened to the industry in recent years; blockbuster pipelines have slowed to a trickle, while smaller, nimbler companies have stepped in and, with the use of advanced technologies, can now make products for smaller patient populations efficiently and at a profit.

Also, the rising influence of contract organizations has given the industry much more flexibility in developing and marketing extensions to existing products to appeal to more consumers.

It’s encouraging to see industry coming around to this new way of doing business. And if big pharma can be turned around, can the cruise industry be far behind? I hope not.

What’s your take? Please feel free to email me at [email protected] or comment below!