Big Pharma Expansion Adds Malpractice & Manipulation

When Big Pharma [official site] appeared last year, Alec approved but pointed out it perhaps went a little easy on a severely dodgy target. Today’s announced expansion, Marketing And Malpractice, looks like it might add a few more teeth to the management satire. With your drug developed, you now need to ensure doctors think it’s the right one for their patients. “Take them to dinner, buy them some drinks, maybe a new set of golf clubs? It’s no biggie! Everyone does it.”

Due to be available from the 26th April, the Marketing And Malpractice expansion (£4.79/€5.99/$5.99) will add the ability to sell the drugs you’ve manufactured in the main game. Adding Executives, you’ll now be able to schmooze and manipulate doctors in the way that makes Ben Goldacre’s collar all smoky. Offer them free gifts, fudge the results of clinical trials, and run media campaigns to convince the public that they’re doomed without your pills and potions. There’s money manipulation too, letting you try to undercut your competition and attempt monopolies, as well as extra features for your production lines and new perks that can define how you play in a new game.

So that all sounds an awful lot more pointed, which can be no bad thing. It’s not quite patenting AIDS drugs in Africa and suing cheaper copycats, but it’s shining a light on the smudgier tactics of the industry, while hopefully creating interesting dynamics for management simulating. You can see more of the snark here:


  1. Erithtotl says:

    I never played the core game. Is it good?

    I yearn for an equivalent to a Capitalism 2 sequel.

    • BillyBantam says:

      I love it. For now its a puzzle game, figuring out the right combinations to get the best effects into your drugs, with minimum side effects to maximise profits. When you start to get to the more advanced cures you have varying wait times for manufacturing so you need to decide if it’s worth duplicating parts of the production line to speed up processing. Hoping this expansion will add more depth to the financial side of the game.

    • Dicehuge says:

      Eh. Most people seem to like it but I wasn’t nuts about it. Much more of a puzzle game than a business sim, which is fine, but not what I was expecting.

    • Viral Frog says:

      I love the game. As has been said already, it’s definitely more of a puzzle game than a true business sim. Although this new expansion looks to be taking it more in the direction of a puzzle business sim direction. Seems like an interesting idea to me. I’m excited to see how this turns out.

    • KDR_11k says:

      I dunno, it scratches the usual “numbers get bigger” itch but I’ve never played to a point where it truly felt challenging in any way. Profits are fairly easy, production lines are usually just one long belt, etc. The factory building just doesn’t feel as inventive as Factorio, you’re just manipulating one factor up and down, often by chaining together loads of the same machine and only getting annoyed by its weird input/output placement and shape. Interaction with the AI players is on a level with a Eurogame, you can take out patents to block them a bit and if multiple players do the same thing then profit margins shrink but generally it doesn’t feel very consequential.

      Your main worry is converting resources into products but acquiring resources is automatic, only the price goes up if there’s a lot of demand but you’ll never run out of them. Products just leave through the exit chute and you automatically get money. Maybe some more, some less depending on the market situation but you never end up with a surplus or lack of anything. Since the factory floor is your main screen it seems very important but it’s such a simple system that I’m not sure it’s even meant to provide challenge, instead it’s the market mechanics but they’re not easy to see and very indirect to work with.

    • Unsheep says:

      The humor or silliness of the game puts me off, it feels uncomfortable considering the topic. A more mature or serious tone would have been much more fitting, and deeper managerial aspects would have made the game considerably more interesting to me.

  2. xcession says:

    I see they recorded the audio in a hangar next to a wind turbine.

  3. MrFinnishDude says:

    I have read about all these ways pharma companies screw with people.
    It’s a sad state of affairs but probably fun to simulate. I already like the game and this will add a whole new layer of realism and gameplay, so what’s not to like?

    • JimboDeany says:

      There is a surprising amount of governance and control around this so I don’t believe it’s as bad as some would have you think.

      As for the game, this looks similar to Sim Hospital which is a good thing

      • The First Door says:

        Sadly the fact is there are also lots of very clever, very motivated people working to get around any form of governance or control.

      • Cooper says:

        It’s not as bad as the kind of wide-eyed conspiracy things you hear. But it’s not great. And the legislation around it is very much geared towards the ethical treatment of research subjects side of thing and tends to ignore the ethical side of business things.
        Here’s a quick list of totally standard business practices the pharmaceutical industry (and the governance bodies) seem to think is okay:
        – You have to register all trials before they start but you are free to report only the trials that had a positive outcome for your drug (and never have to tell anyone about the results of trials that didn’t have a positive outcome)
        – You cannot market directly to prescribers and patients in the UK. Great! But you’re free to, for example, host professional free training sessions (which cash strapped GP practices will appreciate…) that only mention your drug as a treatment for diseases when others might be available.
        – On drug trials (and I’m an ex-statistician, so this one gets my back up in particular, even if seems a bit arcane) you currently (as far as I know, I left the NHS a while ago) do not have to report what your outcome measurements are when you report a trial. Which means that alongside not reporting poor outcomes you can simply mine the data for any good outcomes whatsoever and just publish these.
        – There are also interesting ties between drug comapanies and patient groups, but I’ve only heard about this second hand from friends still in the NHS (think back to the patient groups lobbying against NICE allowing pharmacists to prescribe generic drugs even if the GP named a drug)

        I used to work in the NHS, spent a fair bit of time managing research ethics for a London hospital. For a ostensibly scientific process I was always quite impressive how good drug companies are at just avoiding objectivity and thrive on biased information sharing.

        • tnankie says:

          well I used to work for a pharma company, I thought the biggest issues were the focus on treatment not cure, and the selection of therapeutic areas based on projected market size and growth rather than social need.

    • DrZhark says:

      The way real life pharmaceutical companies operate is sometimes unbelievable. To anyone interested in the subject I recommend ‘Bad Pharma’ by Ben Goldacre. It’s an eye opener

      • Osito says:

        This is not just a pharma problem. Go to any global industry and you’re going to find bad people doing bad things: look at the banks or the oil industry for obvious examples. And look at plenty of small businesses and you’ll find them exploiting employees and the environment and so on.

        While it’s good to call out issues when they happen, I think it is unproductive to try to smear an industry as if it is all bad. For all its faults, the pharma industry does an awful lot of good in the world, and the patent system (for all its faults) helps it to do it, and we’d all be worse off without it.

  4. Kollega says:

    Can we expect the next expansion to build on these ideas in the opposite direction by being a licensed tie-in to The Fugitive?

  5. The First Door says:

    That looks very interesting, I must say! I really enjoyed Big Pharma, and these extra parts look like they will add into the base game quite nicely.

    The part that really hit home for me in the trailer, though, was the ability to disqualify certain studies. I wonder if you can also commission studies specifically designed to find false positives by measuring 20+ different things and not performing any statistical correction?

  6. mordecai says:

    I think that malpractice is such a huge part of the pharma industry, this sounds like it should have been in the original game.

  7. Sarfrin says:

    Entirely coincidentally, I’m sure, Krelish is an anagram of Shkreli.

  8. ButteringSundays says:


    Trivial nitpick but the irony got to me: a marketing executive is an entry level position, they’re presenting this lady like she’s the boss. It’s unintuitive, I know, but I would have assumed this video be produced by marketeers who’d know better.

    Can we assume the rest of the marketing DLC was produced with such keen insight into the industry?