[Ip-health] Generic drugs are good for patients - and for society

leena menghaney leenamenghaney at gmail.com
Wed Oct 31 03:46:29 PDT 2012

Elias Zerhouni (R&D head of Sanofi-Aventis) : Generic drugs are good
for patients - and for society

Times of India

Winner of France's Legion d'honneur, former US National Institutes of
Health director and previously medical consultant to the White House,
Zerhouni now heads research and development at French pharmaceutical
company Sanofi-Aventis. Speaking with Pushpa Narayan, Zerhouni
discussed how the future of the pharmaceutical industry could include
creating region-specific drugs, how generic medication is an essential
social good - and why a vaccine against dengue hasn't fully clicked

Most drugs available today are based on the needs of people living in
the West. Many medical practitioners find some of these don't suit
Asians. Is it
time the pharmaceutical industry began developing region-specific drugs?

The future of the pharmaceutical industry does lie in providing
personalised medicine and region-specific solutions. Disease profiles
are different for
different regions. It is no more a one-size-fits-all approach. For
instance, we don't know why there is very high hypertension and
cholesterol associated with diabetes in Indians. We're studying 16,000
patients in India now just in order to learn how differently the
disease and its complications manifest themselves in this region. Even
within regions, there could be notable differences and we should
certainly study these in great detail.

Will such extensive rese-arch going towards drug deve-lopment make
treatments more expensive?

Having served as the director of America's National Institutes of
Health for years, i am fully aware of the need to make treatment
accessible and
affordable. We can't ignore the factor of purchasing power. Research
should provide solutions that people can afford over time. As an
example, we know there is considerable scope for anti-diabetes drugs
to be sold in India. Therefore, non-disposable pens are being
developed which are likely to bring down the costs of insulin.

Today, in the pharmaceutical world, if you aren't sensitive to price,
competition will do it for you.

Amidst such specialisation, do generic drugs lower profits for
pharmaceutical companies - and impact research?

No. Generic drugs are good, not just for patients but for society.
There are patent laws that do give you enough time to recover money.
Generic drugs did not come out of the blue. They came from real
innovative research. Generic drugs make treatment affordable to
everyone. Having generic drugs is the right thing to do.

Many are very concerned about dengue fever in India - could you please
tell us about the dengue vaccine being developed and mixed reports of
efficacy during research?

Well, we certainly recognised dengue as one of the most dangerous
emerging diseases currently. We started research on dengue fever 10
years ago. We wanted to develop a vaccine that would work against all
four serotypes of dengue. We thought it would be absolutely accurate
and manage all four serotypes. But the results of our trials conducted
in Thailand showed it did not work against one of the serotypes. We
haven't studied why in full detail as yet. But we know this is an
important discovery. We are currently continuing our dengue vaccine
study amongst 40,000 people. We have a lot more to learn - but this
vaccine's research also holds a lot of hope.


Leena Menghaney

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