Thursday, December 15, 2011

WHY DO DRUGS COST SO MUCH?

How many times have I heard – “that’s outrageous!” - when talking about the price of a particular medicine?

My brother, Bill. takes a pill every day that costs upwards of $25.00. That’s pricey. But in the end, it all comes down to the cost to develop the drug, the cost to manufacture and the size of the potential market.

Drug research is $100 billion a year endeavor.

I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal that prompted this little article. Two years ago, some researchers in Boston showed how they could kill cancer cells by targeting a protein in the cells called STK33 – don’t ask me what it stands for.

Amgen, the well known biotech pharmaceutical company, jumped all over it. They put together a team of scientists/researchers totaling 24 to see if they could duplicate this. If they could, this could prove to be a pathway to create new drugs to fight cancer. After 6 intensive (and expensive) months – all their efforts had failed.

One of the cornerstones of original research is reproduceability. In other words, if one lab does research, say, in Chicago, can that research AND results be duplicated in a lab in Miami or Paris? That is crucial.

Bayer, the big pharmaceutical company, has halted nearly two-thirds of phase 2 trials in drug research. Phase 2 involves reproducing results from other labs.

The bottom line is that those FAILED attempts cost money – cost real dollars. Bayer is not alone in failed attempts. In that list are companies like Amgen, Pfizer, Eli Lilly and many others. Drug research is not cheap. This helps explain in part the rising cost of prescription drugs.

Obviously, as a Fort Myers Plastic Surgeon, I wish with you that drugs could be developed at lower cost. But researchers must be paid, facilities must be built and maintained and gambles are taken that the research will produce a life-saving or life-enhancing drug. When it doesn't, that cost drops to the bottom line of the drug companies.

When it does, the bottom line for all of us is a priceless advance in our health, quality of life and longevity.

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