Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Keeping secrets

Everyone keeps secrets - like how much I weigh. That is known to me, the scale, and my doctor's office. Its no one's business but mine and, truth be told, I really do not like the number but that's another story. There are other instances where keeping secrets is okay. Like a secret family recipe. Or a medical history.

These secrets are just information we want to keep private for whatever reason. It is fine that they are kept private and not shared indiscriminately.

Then there is the issue of secrets vs. transparency. This is when secrets are kept between groups where they should not be. Transparency is important between groups so that honesty leads and there can be understanding and appreciation of the other side. Without transparency, dishonesty can be suspected and with suspicion comes distrust. Which leads to bias and anger.

A big area where there is no transparency is in drug pricing. The pharmaceutical industry has a problem with this. Yesterday (was it yesterday or the day before?) I blogged about that 'gentleman' who jacked up the pricing of an existing drug for no given reason.

And for an industry already struggling with an image problem over the rising costs of prescription drugs, companies are going to have a hard time distancing themselves from one of the most controversial men in America.

The reason is a lack of transparency. Drug makers do not really want to explain how medicines are priced and, as a result, they have adopted an air of secrecy in which one cowboy can create havoc for an entire industry.

“The [Shkreli] episode is really an extreme manifestation of an attitude that has taken over the industry,” said Bernard Munos, a former corporate strategy adviser at Eli Lilly who is now a senior fellow at FasterCures, a medical research think tank. Most drug companies “are not raising prices by 5,000 percent, but large prices will leave patients with the same impression.”

It’s certainly true that funding drug discovery is expensive. The latest estimate of what it costs to get a drug out the door is, on average, $2.6 billion, according to a 2014 Tufts University report that was funded in part by industry.

Yet pharma leaders have done a poor job of explaining how the cost of R&D translates into a need for climbing prices or the sky-high sticker prices that are commonly set for new medicines from the get-go. Rather than opening their books, drug makers continually repeat the refrain about increasing development costs, and they avoid any candid discussions about cost that may invite more interest in setting price controls.

This is not a good thing. We need transparency to prevent more 'greed based' actions. Honesty and its partner transparency should rule. Secrecy and suspicion should be

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