The Year in Review – 2011's Top 10 Pharma Stories

by Tera Tuten on January 13, 2012

10. The Food Pyramid is history.

Since 1992, the Food Pyramid has represented the epitome of healthy eating. It was retired last year, replaced by MyPlate, a visual pie-chart representation that emphasizes controlling portion sizes as well as making healthy choices.

9. Calorie counts on menus

Starting in 2012, chain restaurants around the country will be required to post nutrition information on the menu due to a regulation that was passed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2011. While it may not stop people from making poor choices, at least the information will be available for an informed choice.

 

8. Prescription medicine abuse.

One of the biggest stories of 2011 was the widespread abuse of prescription drugs, and the efforts by the joint task force including the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, FDA, and DEA to control the deadly epidemic. For the first time, the number of deaths from drug abuse has topped the number of deaths from motor vehicle accidents in the US.

 

7. Supreme Court to review Affordable Health Care Act

The Affordable Health Care act, derisively called “Obamacare” by opponents, was designed to provide healthcare to 30 million uninsured Americans. Since it was signed into law by President Obama, Republicans have opposed the measure, calling it unconstitutional. The Supreme Court agreed to review the law and deliver a ruling shortly before the presidential election in 2012.

 

6. Patents Expire for 13 popular drugs

Patents began to expire on thirteen common drugs on the market. Last year saw patents expire on Lipitor, Zyprexa, Levaquin, Concerta, and Protonix. Ten more are set to expire in 2012, including such well-known meds as Plavix, Enbrel, Singulair, and Viagra. Good news for consumers, but a significant loss to generic competition for manufacturers. Sales figures for Lipitor alone top $11 billion a year.

 

5. Express Scripts/Medco Health Solutions merger – or not

When Express Scripts announced a pending merger with Medco Health Solutions, a storm of controversy was ignited. The two pharmaceutical giants combined could result in a mega-corporation of epic proportion capable of stomping the competition and limiting consumer choices. To date, 33 members of Congress have voiced objections to the merger.

 

4. Better healthcare, less profit

As part of the healthcare reform bill, insurers will be required to spend 80% to 85% on patient care beginning on January 1, cutting in to the profit margin traditionally enjoyed by the health insurance industry.

 

3. The FDA approves 35 new drugs

In the 2011 fiscal year, the FDA approved 35 new medicines. Among the approved drugs are the first new drug to treat Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 30 years; two new treatments for hepatitis C; seven new treatments for cancer including a late-stage drug for prostate cancer; and a new treatment for lupus, the first in 50 years.

 

2. Drug shortages

Officials are concerned that a growing drug shortage, including anesthetics, chemotherapy, and antibiotics, could result in a serious public health problem. At least 15 deaths have already been attributed to the shortage.

 

1. Michael Jackson’s doctor found guilty.

Michael Jackson’s tragic death left fans bereft…and wondering why. In November, a Los Angeles County jury decided that the blame was squarely on his private physician, Dr. Conrad Murray. Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for administering surgical anesthetic propofol to his famous patient, causing his death.

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