New programs from GSK, Novartis, and Pfizer stand out in an industry that has hurt itself by failing to proactively address the issues of pricing and access. While some question the extent to which the new discount card initiatives will truly help seniors get the drugs they need, officials at all three companies say they hope to inspire other companies to step up their efforts in the area and, in doing so, give the industry greater leverage in helping to shape a Medicare drug benefit. Similarly, Novartis sees its sliding-scale pricing scheme for Gleevec as setting a precedent for itself, and its competition, to insure that novel, lifesaving therapeutics will be affordable for those who need them. These programs may also serve commercial ends. The cards provide sales reps with something new to talk about, helping them to reach more physicians and increase the length of their office visits. And Gleevec's sliding scale pricing segments the patient population according to income in a way that will arguably maximize profits; it could also help boost Novartis' oncology franchise by strengthening ties with oncologists who can be sure their patients will get Gleevec when they prescribe it.
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