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Pharmalot's Ed Silverman wonders how pharmaceutical companies will deal with the impending "patent cliffs" they face that will leave them with no patent protection on their most popular drugs. One idea, he says, is to create an atmosphere of customer loyalty, emulating companies like Apple or Starbucks. Writing in BusinessWeek, consultants G. Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Vitón present a hypothetical example of a new customer-loyalty approach — a "Readi-Clinic at Wal-Mart, Powered by Pfizer," which they say could not only provide medications, but also help customers make decisions about their health and life habits. In other words, Maddock and Vitón say it's time for pharma to think of a business model that goes beyond pills. "To mitigate the loss in market share from generics, they suggest drugmakers stop viewing consumers as 'druggable targets' and, instead, spend more resources on understanding their needs, locating 'target insights' and building brand loyalty that can extend beyond the life of a patent," Pharmalot's Silverman says. "In reality, though, this is more than brand loyalty — the plan would be to build customer loyalty, too." But is this suggestion workable? In a Pharmalot poll, currently 83 percent of 124 total voters say it isn't.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.