Voicing Concern

  • by: |
  • 01/07/2014

It’s likely that 2013 will be the year remembered as the year of the ObamaCare website fiasco. It’s a story tailor-made for the media. But the real stories lie elsewhere.

2013 should be commemorated as the year that America began to celebrate the real debut of personalized medicine. New medicines for cancers and orphan diseases were approved by the FDA using a more progressive view of the risk/benefit equation. And, for the first time, the voice of the patient really made a difference in the agency’s calculations.  2013 will be seen as the year when the FDA began to think about a greater dimensionality of benefits via functional endpoints.

2013 may also be viewed by future generations of healthcare pharmacenti as the year when “blockbuster” thinking was replaced with a focus on patient outcomes. The implications for R&D investment in new molecules as well as companion diagnostics make 2013 the year when we finally take to heart both the philosophical and business proposition that getting the right medicine to the right patient in the right dose at the right time is the best way to embrace a patient-centric care paradigm that is also cost-efficient.

But 2013 may also be viewed as the year when Uncle Sam got into the business of telling physicians (and nurse prescribers) how to practice medicine. This is, after all, the year that “government detailing” (aka, “academic detailing” or “counter-detailing”) hit the streets via our tax dollars and minus any federal oversight. It’s an issue that’s been flying under the radar screen – and that makes it more insidious and twice as dangerous.

What will define 2014? There are many possibilities. Certainly near the top of the list is the march towards American biosimilars. 2014 will be the year when the FDA decides on the INN issue. It’s the rare opportunity when we can learn from the mistakes other nations have made. I predict that the FDA will do the right thing and insist that FOBs carry a sim prefix or some such specific identifier. You cannot create comfort among prescribers and patients with therapeutic ambiguity.

Will 2014 be the year when healthcare communicators and pharmacovigilance trackers decide to embrace social media? Will 2014 be the year of more creative and aggressive use of adaptive clinical trials? Will 2014 be a year of developmental and regulatory success for new antibiotics? Only time will tell.

Let’s hope that 2014 builds upon the success of 2013, learns from its failures and surprises us in exciting ways that we didn’t even expect.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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