Drug Costs

021927502-medicine-pillsWhy are prescription drugs so expensive? One answer to that question is unquestionably greed, as evidenced in a study in JAMA Internal Medicine Rick and I discuss on PodMed this week. And while that conclusion is completely expected, some of the details and the extent to which pharmaceutical companies are manipulating data and information are noteworthy, and worth protesting.

This study took a look at 10 new cancer drugs from 10 companies, using data provided to the US Securities and Exchange Commission to pinpoint research and development (R&D) costs by the pharmaceutical companies.  The authors found that the median time to develop a new drug was 7.3 years at a cost of $648 million. Here's what the drug makers earned:"The revenue since approval is substantial (median, $1658.4 million; range, $204.1 million to $22 275.0 million). Taken in aggregate, profits in about 4 years post approval were about 9 times the costs of bringing the drug to market. One element included in the data pharma provides to the SEC is that research undertaken with public dollars in research grants to universities, a cost that should clearly be removed. And finally, these numbers are very different from those provided by pharma to justify huge price tags on new drugs relative to R&D.  As Rick and I agree, profit is fine, gouging is not. In view of the fact that most people with cancer cite financial concerns as a major source of worry, some scrutiny and modification of this practice seems indicated. It's also worth noting that such price gouging is not limited to cancer drugs, and is something that cries out for redress.

Other topics this week include two from JAMA:Effect of Sentinel Lymph Node vs Full Axillary Dissection on Overall Breast Cancer Survival and Menopausal Hormone Therapy and Long-term All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality, and in NEJM: Hospital-Readmission Risk — Isolating Hospital Effects from Patient Effects. Until next week, y'all live well.

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