How Can Ford Look Itself in the Mirror?
| 1 Comment |

I'm going to have a little fun with Josh Bloom's recent posting, not because I don't respect him or his writing--I do--but because we can use it to illustrate an important point.

His posting was about Merck and Liptruzet and he asked how Merck could look itself in the mirror when "Merck is trying something that is as good an example of marketing without innovation as you'll ever see." He went on to say, "Liptruzet behaved, as expected, just like Vytorin. It reduced LDL cholesterol more [than] for patients who took Lipitor alone, but it did not reduce patients' chances of developing heart disease. Not surprisingly, this left some doctors to wonder why it was approved at all."

In other words, if Merck can't prove that Liptruzet does more than just reduce LDL, then it's just a big marketing scam. For fun, let's gain some perspective by substituting Merck with Ford and Liptruzet with the F-150 pickup.

"The Ford F-150 pickup carries workers and tools to jobsites around the country. It has been used for carpentry, masonry, steel working, HVAC, concrete, logging, plumbing, and roofing, but, at least so far, Ford has been unable to prove that the F-150 can do other, even more amazing things. With the F-150 pickup, Ford is trying something that is as good an example of marketing without innovation as you'll ever see."

Perhaps Ford has not proven the F-150's ability to do other amazing things because those things are difficult or expensive to prove. Or perhaps the study is underway, as is Merck's IMPROVE-IT study of Vytorin. Maybe down the road someone will show that F-150's can be used for other, important things. Or, maybe not. In the meantime, the stuff the F-150 does is still impressive and, by being on the market, it gives consumers a choice and provides competition for Dodge, Chevy, and Toyota.

If customers did not see the value in F-150's, they wouldn't buy them. The fact that they do buy them shows that they see value. And these are the people who are most directly affected by owning a new pickup, as opposed to outside "experts" who might have different values and preferences, and certainly have less skin in the game.

Pharmaceuticals are somehow seen as different. The opinion that Liptruzet shouldn't be given a chance on the market shows little respect for the ability of patients, physicians, and payers--the real people who take, prescribe, and purchase drugs--to form their own opinions based on their own experiences. I, for one, would prefer the pharmaceutical market to be more like the automotive market.

1 Comment

*That* certainly woke me up this morning.

While I see your point, I don't think you can really compare the two.

The pharmaceutical industry has to be held to a higher standard than the automotive industry.

If Ford wants to put out different versions of the same truck, there is no downside. Presumably, all of them will get you to where you are going safely. (That is unless my ex-girlfriend is driving, in which case you're on your own).

But here's the difference: when Merck is developing a copycat drug (especially one that is modeled after a failure) they are doing so at the expense of something that will really benefit patients—antibiotics, drugs for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, etc.

Whether Ford makes a F-150 or a F-151 will make zero difference in the world, The expectations are completely different. The market can sort this out with no consequences, except for those who prefer leather seats.

Merck *can* do whatever they want, and the market either will or will not sort it out, but in my opinion they look mighty sleazy right now. Which I suspect they already know.

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