Market Barriers to the Development of Pharmacotherapies for the Treatment of Cocaine Abuse and Addiction: Final Report. Social Stigma


Social stigma of drug abusers was cited as a market barrier by representatives of two of the pharmaceutical companies, though it is regarded as surmountable if the commercial and scientific viability of the product is favorable. The pharmaceutical companies that identified social stigma as a barrier were familiar and sympathetic to the case experience of Eli Lilly and methadone, in which the drug's original analgesia market plummeted after people associated methadone with heroin addiction treatment.

Representatives of one of the pharmaceutical companies that has a strong CNS portfolio expressed concern that the negative image of the drug abuse population would hinder the likelihood of a pharmacotherapy's financial success. Further, one company representative indicated that if a highly promising or approved drug for a non-substance abuse CNS disorder showed potential effectiveness for treating cocaine addiction, the company would be very circumspect about pursuing the cocaine indication for fear that any adverse events or stigma associated with the substance abuse indication would threaten the market for the original indication.

One pharmaceutical company interviewee suggested that social stigma can be circumvented by renaming drugs for cocaine indications. Another interviewee suggested that future progress of the science base and pharmacology may enable designating different drugs from a class of closely related yet distinct molecules, all of which would have same or similar CNS actions. Thus, one molecule could be designated as a cocaine medication while another from the same class could be designated for another CNS indication, thereby avoiding the problem of attempting to market a molecule for a cocaine indication that is effective for another CNS indication.