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Anticompetitive Big Pharma

April 2, 2007 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 85, ISSUE 14

The article on Pfizer's plan to "restructure" was interesting but fell prey to the doublespeak of our era (C&EN, Jan. 29, page 7). There is no restructuring going on at Pfizer. Pfizer bought two major competitors and is closing them up lock, stock, and barrel. Pfizer will retain a few of the competitors' employees but intends to shed most.

What is going on is against the intent of anticompetitive and antitrust laws at best and at worst should be prosecuted as predatory and anticompetitive. The basis of a healthy capitalist economy is diversity and competition. Our democratic government, in its wisdom, recognized that these attributes are critical and essential to our national well-being and formulated laws to govern this type of business behavior.

Although the acquisition of small companies by large companies is legitimate and frequently adds to competitiveness in the marketplace, a company the size of Pfizer buying several of its major competitors is clearly anticompetitive. It took almost a century for the U.S. to train scientists and fund the academic research that forms the basis of pharmaceutical discovery. The nation's massive investment both in money and resources has resulted in major breakthroughs in pharmaceutical science.

The era of "big pharma" can be reasonably compared to the automobile industry during the 20th century, but the automobile industry does not represent the investment in public funds that the pharmaceutical industry does. Furthermore, the complexity and advanced scientific expertise required to develop and test drugs is vastly more than that required by the automotive industry.

During an era when government funding of research is not keeping up with inflation, we are rapidly losing the organizations that brought us the major advances in pharmaceuticals. While the big pharma paradigm is not ideal, we certainly don't want to wind up with our investment going the way of our automobile companies.

We need to wake up and take back control of our destiny before we are simply a debtor nation of service industries. Soon the major U.S. pharmaceutical companies will be mere shells that coordinate activities that, if history serves us, will be mostly done in other countries.

Michael Wider
Pleasant Ridge, Mich.



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