Drug Companies Should Go Back To What They Do Best

"Crunch time in pill land" (American News, Nov. 22) was correct in pointing out the many pitfalls of using mergers and acquisitions to sustain pharmaceutical companies' desperation for short-term growth and lofty stock prices. There is a common misconception in the drug industry that bigger means better. The distorted logic of buying your way into bigger research and development budgets, more massive sales forces, and larger marketing machines--and thus better performance--has little support from historical evidence of mergers earlier in the decade.

Instead, drug companies should be doing what they have always done best--supporting the therapeutic function of medicine. When medicine was still in its curative stage, antibiotics and aspirin did wonders for the companies that produced them. In the new paradigm of preventive health care, where chronic illnesses prevail, the market calls for integrative solutions, not mere pills and capsules to reduce suffering and improve quality of life.

That is, in addition to vigorously pursuing new frontiers in fields like pharmacogenomics, traditional research-based drug giants should investigate the potential of complementary therapies, new combinations of vitamin and herbal supplements, and traditional Chinese medicine.

Gabriel M. Leung

Faculty of Medicine

University of Hong Kong