Ray RaimundiOct 20, 2017, 7:59 pmOct 20, 2017, 8:03 pm

Pharmaceutical companies on collision course: The pressure to develop profitable drugs

FiOS1 News and The Journal News report on the impact it’s having in Lower Hudson Valley

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ROCKLAND COUNTY — A clash between two major drug companies here in the Lower Hudson Valley is sparking renewed attention on the demand for profit in the health care industry. That corporate demand is having a serious effect local jobs and how much consumers pay for prescription drugs.

"It’s a very complex and long-term issue, but the urgency is growing, you know, and its reaching these breaking points," says The Journal News health investigative reporter Dave Robinson.

Robinson spend months and countless hours digging into what he calls a "pharmaceutical battlefield," where pharmaceutical companies take part in high-stakes bets on whether a drug will be successful when it comes to the creation of profitable prescription medications.

“…It affects everybody. Its affects everybody who has anybody who relies on prescription drugs,” Robinson says on how many people it impacts and the consequences it has on patients.

And one those people dealing with the consequences is David Mitchell, president of the advocacy group Patients for Affordable Drugs.

FiOS1 News spoke with Mitchell, who suffers from blood cancer and needs transfusions in order to stay alive. Mitchell says he spend $3,250 in one year in only one of a number of drugs that he takes.

And skyrocketing prescription drug prices are not the only consequence. Robinson says the impact on the local economy is astounding as well.

Ray: these market swings are causing a huge economic affect to people right here in our area because it affects jobs?

“Part of our investigation we tracked and worked into looking into the amount of jobs that have been lost and gained really in this marketplace,” Robinson says.

In fact, because of the boom-or-bust approach by major pharma companies, 830 jobs were lost between 2011 and 2016 in New York State. Major pharmaceutical plants include Teva Pharmaceuticals in Haverstraw, Novartis in Suffern, and Acorda in Ardsley.

There's no question, drug companies are facing extreme pressure to create profitable drugs and streamline costs. That pressure is felt at the Pfizer plant in Pearl River. In fact, over the last 10 years, over 3,200 jobs were eliminated.

But, despite those job cuts, Pfizer reinforced its stake hold in the industry when it recently invested in a $10 million robotic drug research facility.

“I’m very pleased to share the exciting developments that we have for vaccines to improve public health as we move forward to build on the legacy of the Pearl River site,” said Pfizer Senior Vice President of Vaccines and Clinical Development Bill Gruber.

And Regeneron in Tarrytown is on the upswing after development of the recent blockbuster drug Eylea boosted its profits, helping to create thousands of new jobs.

“Science is first and patients are second. It’s our core belief that the better we understand the science, the better we can deliver medicines that can really transform patients’ lives,” says Regeneron Senior Vice President for Global Clinical Development Dr. David Weinreich.

But the million dollar question is at what cost?

While health care advocates are calling for more severe regulations to monitor the pharmaceutical industry, economists are predicting the entire health care industry could hit a major market crash as the housing industry did in 2008.

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