The Pharma Industry is certainly under a lot of pressure – drugs pulled off the market, job cuts all over the place, sites closed down, and on, and on. Those of us working in chemistry will know the stories…I won’t belabor them.

I read with interest the article “As Drug Industry Struggles, Chemists Face Layoff Wave“. It’s an interesting read especially in regards to the scientist who was involved in developing the world’s most successful drug. I quote “It was at the Ann Arbor facility in the late 1980s that Dr. Sliskovic first assembled the chemicals that make up Lipitor, the cholesterol-lowering drug that has generated about $80 billion in sales since its launch and ranks as the bestselling pharmaceutical product ever.”

Of course it’s “reporting” and the real truth regarding the treatment of people during downsizing etc is always tricky when balancing business decisions and corporate responsibilities with the “human” elements. I’ve been through this as have many of my friends. My personal experience is that corporations need to do a much better job handling the emotional side of this…and money doesn’t do it (though it helps).

What amused me in the report was the following comment from the head of the Chemical Abstracts Service “Robert Massie, president of the American Chemical Society’s database of chemistry research, says some researchers are questioning how many more chemical combinations there are that are useful against diseases. “It’s like how coming out with metal drivers in golf was a huge innovation, but now it’s incremental. You’re just coming out with drivers that are a little longer or rounder,” he says.” (side note….the ACS’ database of chemistry research…hmmm…a little more clarification with the WSJ required!)

Now, knowing that the pharmaceutical industry process of innovation and discovery is similar to that of the golf equipment manufacturers I had to consider the analogy. The drug industry now has the possibility to talk to some of the golf equipment manufacturers for coaching. You don’t hear much about the golf manufacturers laying off staff..especially the big ones. They probably farm most of their manufacturing out to China now (don’t know for sure) but research is done here (wow…the parallels and what might be coming soon). They get big names to advertise for them (Nicklaus for golf and Dr Jarvik for Pharma) and they tend to repackage the same old tool under a different brand name. They do tend to innovate to have things go harder and longer (well, you can make up the parallel). The best golf equipment is for those who can afford it (hmmmmmmm…) and generics for everyone else. What was a new innovation in golf gets genericized and on the shelf at Wal-mart when off patent or licensed out early on (how true in pharma). So…you see the point…many parallels. And of course, golf puts people at risk…only a small percentage have heart attacks on the golf course (as with some drugs), golf can give you benefits while giving side effects (exercise is good but the stress of the game isn’t), you can lose your balls in golf (and your libido with drugs)…and so on.

Maybe the golf-industry learnings can be brought to Pharma… maybe we will have Pfing if Pfizer and Ping merge. Which of the Erectile Dysfunction drugs will be genericized under the name Maxfli and their buzz phrase “Go Long or Go Home?”. Who will purchase this company just to brand name the supporting medicine for the side effects of ED drugs, DogLeg Right?

And yes, there a 100 additional comments I can make about drugs and golf, 100 quips I’d like to make about erectile dysfunction drugs and golf equipment analogies related to Mr Massie’s comment “You’re just coming out with drivers that are a little longer or rounder”- and if anyone wants the list ask me by email. They are more in tune of a barroom discussion than the blogosphere :-)

Stumble it!

3 Responses to “Flyagra – driving your GOLF balls further and longer. The Discovery Process in the Pharma Industry is Similar to that in the Golfing Industry”

  1. Antony Williams says:

    Derek Lowe of In the Pipeline has commented on the WSJ article with a more serious view and from his point of view of working in the industry. it’s worth reading. The levity and sarcasm of my own article is balanced by this appropriate levity by Derek.

  2. Jeffrey Halbstein-Harris says:

    I would like to thank Anthony Williams for his enlightening concepts. The notion of merging corporate knowledge from disparate industries to promote efficiency, share-holder return on investment and marketing syntax, where not new; is most novel with respect to golfing and medicine. As I “chuckled” through his commentary I found myself searching for a remedy as I experienced –what is unfortunately customary- muscle pain and paresthesia. Once my fit of joy reached a dull smirk on my face the pain began to retreat, but I was left with a nagging back-ache that lasted most of the day. In-fact…..although I wanted to; I could not sit at my computer to write this response until this morning.

    So…what does all this have to do with an -off the cuff- comment that asserts that the pharmaceutical industry has reached the apogee of its business cycle in innovation. Excuse me while I take a break………I find this idea absurd, if not depressing; and as a consumer of the best that US Pharmacopeia has to offer, I hope my hero’s (You Scientists) have not all “thrown in your towels” and left my future health to a new profession of technicians whose job is the constant remodeling of molecular structure for the purpose of either protecting a patent, changing drug delivery mechanisms or lowering the severity of nausea that I feel after taking the anti-inflammatory agents that you designed for the pain that I experience when I laugh. Oh yeah, what else: perhaps the loss of libido associated with the SSRI that I took due to overwhelming depression from my new found loss of hope for actual cures. Well, at least I can take a Cox-II inhibitor, an SSRI and a Viagra. This should allow me to experience at least one day of pain free, happiness: Unfortunately the Viagra will not work as it does not affect libido –just blood flow (guess a trip to the oyster bar is needed). Next year however, when I am overcome with dyspnea and chest pain and receive a coronary artery stent for the accelerated cardiovascular disease associated with my “pain treatment”, I can begin a thorough course of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor therapy. The statins should slow down the process long enough to experience liver failure as an adverse event.

    For those of you that lost any momentum from a respected leader’s discouraging remarks; please do not stop. I suggest you review the Institute of Medicine’s remarks on treatment and health IOM and Health United States 2007 CDC HUS. You will note that there is a long way to go if your social objective is to cure disease.
    If the pharmaceutical industry will not support your innovations due to market size and profit limitations, speak up; where the people go- the leaders will follow.

    Of course, if you can create a cure for gluttony, you might just be onto something that will increase the number of quality life adjusted years (QALYs) experienced per lifetime in view of the recent data on obesity trends here in the US. But then again; perhaps it is all over; the fast food industry wins and I can retire to golf course; swing my nine iron and succumb to the sequella of both disease AND treatment.

    Jeffrey Halbstein-Harris

  3. Mr Golf says:


    Thank you for such a well written blog article.

    “So…you see the point…many parallels. And of course, golf puts people at risk…only a small percentage have heart attacks on the golf course (as with some drugs), golf can give you benefits while giving side effects (exercise is good but the stress of the game isn’t), you can lose your balls in golf (and your libido with drugs)…and so on.”

    I totally agree with that statement. The stress of swing a golf ball and trying to win isn’t always good for your heart. Remember, athletes are very competitive
    when it comes to their sport. Adding drugs to your heart condition sure will not help.

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