The price of medicines and the problem of the 2,000 million dollars that nobody knows where they are

The best-kept secret in the pharmaceutical industry is not drugs. Neither the process to manufacture them, nor the commercial strategies. The best kept secret is the price, what it costs to discover them, develop them and demonstrate their effectiveness and safety. We all intuit that such long, guaranteeful and complex processes must be expensive.

But it is not clear how expensive. The figure that the industry usually gives is that bringing a drug to the market costs 2.7 billion dollars. So expensive? A new study says far from it. The debate is served.

An "extremely lucrative" industry

It is an important topic because cancer treatments can cost thousands of dollars a year and adjust the benefit of companies and the sustainability of health systems is one of the big issues.

Researchers have investigated the approval process of 10 cancer treatments approved between 2006 and 2015 and their conclusions are that, on average, the money used has been $ 648 million and 7.3 years.

This has led researchers to claim that the discrepancy is "extremely lucrative." Fundamentally because, as Vinay Prasad, an oncologist on the research team, said, "the prices of medicines make them unaffordable for many patients, but spending on R&D does not justify those prices." The study has been a bomb in the sector.

The hidden costs of biomedical research

And yes, the study is very interesting, but not because the figures they give are correct. They are. But the truth is that they do not take into account that a very high number of the treatments that are investigated do not amount to anything and that this is a very high cost (which someone has to assume). Specifically, the laboratories. Although we don't know exactly how.

Therefore, as Daniel Seaton, an industry spokesman, explained, "the few successful drugs - such as those covered in the study - must be profitable enough to finance all other failures." If today's study is interesting, it is because it reflects the great weakness of the pharmaceutical industry: its opacity.

A chronic transparency problem

The pharmaceutical sector has a chronic transparency problem that is eroding society's trust

It is nothing new, but the 'Big Pharma' (the big pharmaceuticals) have a very serious credibility problem. On a financial level, as we can see, the figures are very controversial. But the problem goes further, at a scientific and technical level the industry also makes water.

Jennifer Miller, a professor at New York University, conducted a very interesting study in which she found that nearly half of the FDA-approved drugs involved at least one unpublished study. Furthermore, only 20% of the results of clinical trials registered at are published in the public registry.

Whether at the clinical or financial level, it is clear that industry practices need light and stenographers. It is the only way to solve a problem that, in the medium term, threatens modern medicine: the breakdown of confidence in the treatments provided by the pharmaceutical industry. It is in the crevices of that trust that monsters grow.

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