Why government must negotiate a better deal for publicly funded research
The investigation by The BMJ and Cambridge and Bath universities into the availability of breakthrough hepatitis C drugs raises important questions for NHS England about access to lifesaving drugs.1 However, the main question is why medicines are so expensive in the first place. The pricing strategy of Gilead for sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) and ledipasvir-sofosbuvir (Harvoni) raises questions that go well beyond the UK.
The BMJ ’s investigation is just an example of a more general problem. What is the right price to pay for a particular drug, and how should this be determined?
Pharmaceutical innovation should be structured so that it focuses on unmet health needs globally and delivers therapeutic advances that are affordable and accessible to all,2 not just profitable for manufacturers. This requires an approach that directs effort towards therapeutic innovations rather than “me too” drugs, and a financing and pricing structure which is transparent, focused on access, and reflects the collective investment and risk taking involved.
Drug companies have often …
BMJ editorial on drug pricing and a call for transparency
This Visualizing Health Policy infographic provides a snapshot of men’s health care and insurance coverage issues, including health status, access to care, and use of services. It compares the uninsured rates of men and women; their cost barriers to care; their connection to clinicians; and...
Eligible men in Wales with newly diagnosed advanced prostate cancer will now be offered earlier access to docetaxel chemotherapy alongside hormone therapy. Combining these treatments has been shown to offer these men the possibility of an extra fifteen months of life on average.
Patient campaignimg gets men in Wales access to early chemo
Victor Roy and Lawrence King argue that the acquisition strategies of drug companies magnify development costs and leave the public paying twice—for research and high priced medicines
Sofosbuvir based medicines have marked an important breakthrough for patients with hepatitis C infection, offering cure rates of over 90%. The virus is a leading infectious killer globally, disproportionately affecting vulnerable groups such as people who inject drugs or have HIV/AIDS.1 Even after discounts offered from a US list price of about $90 000 (£70 000; €80 000) per three month treatment course, however, the cost of these drugs, manufactured by Gilead Sciences, has challenged government budgets and led to rationing. Sofosbuvir’s pricing has been at the centre of a global debate over the affordability of prevailing systems of drug development, and the US Senate conducted an 18 month investigation into Gilead’s pricing strategy and its consequences for health budgets and patient access.2
One argument for the high prices has been that the curative drugs represent a major advance in value to patients and health systems. They are indeed more cost effective than many expensive medicines that provide only marginal benefit. Yet the company’s ability to charge high prices ultimately relies on monopoly protections via patents, which the industry has long argued are necessary to encourage costly research and development. Critics, however, charge that these costs are exaggerated.3 4 5
We use the case of hepatitis C to highlight another dynamic missing from the debate: the financial model driving large companies and their shareholders. To maximise growth in earnings, large companies like Gilead often enter expensive bidding contests to acquire companies with promising compounds. Subsequent profits are then directed back to shareholders rather than invested in early stage research. This speculative cycle propels the prices of medicines and impedes affordable access for both …
The editorial from the BMJ on drug pricing and R&D
More than five million Americans live with Alzheimer's disease. Research coming out from the Alzheimer's Association Conference in Washington looks at an experimental drug, solanezumab. The treatment may attack the underlying cause and slow the devastating illness' progress. Dr. David Agus joins "CBS This Morning" to discuss the effects of the drug.
Let's hope governments can afford the new dementia drug
23andMe CEO and Founder Anne Wojcicki 23andMe, the Google-backed personal genetics startup, will no longer just sell tests to consumers, or genetic data to pharmaceutical companies. This morning, it announced that it plans to start inventing medicines itself. It’s not just talk. The company has hired Richard Scheller, who led drug discovery [...]
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