Monday, March 27, 2006

Drug Money

Excellent rant from Ezra on Big Pharma and it's enablers:
…you'd have to be a moron to think centralized bargaining authority will "cripple" Big Pharma's R&D arm. If they cease being in the top three most profitable industries in the country (#1 for over two decades straight!), maybe they can dial back on the advertising and administration spending, which accounts for about 250 percent more of their budget than research and development. Or maybe the government should just step in further, as they already fund 36 percent of all medical research in the country and taxpayer-funded work developed 15 of the 21 most important drugs introduced between 1965 and 1992. Another study, this one from 1990, looked at 32 drugs on the market and concluded 60 percent would've never been developed without public funds.


And by the way, in case you're wondering how some of that R&D works, take a look at the cancer drug Taxol. Discovered by the NIH and licensed to Bristol-Meyers-Squibb, Taxol is sold for $20,000, costs $1,000 to produce, and the NIH gets .5 percent of the royalties. Some deal us taxpayers are getting, some deal.
I have no problem with making a profit on almost anything. When you start getting into healthcare though, I’m a little less generous. To the extent that profits spur innovation, I’m all for it. But it’s clear to me that pharmaceutical industry profits go to the extreme on the backs of the sick and the taxpayers who are often left providing for those who can’t provide for themselves (which are often the sick).

Enough with the commercials every five minutes for the latest boner pill. I would ban advertising of prescription drugs completely. Studies have shown doctors too often bow to the wishes of patients who have seen drug ads, deferring their best judgment to the whims of a wanting consumer of mass media. This is pure manipulation that doesn’t advance the beneficial use of limited healthcare assets. It’s time to squeeze Big Parma a bit to get more for our money.

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