I must respond to the opinion piece by Peter Pitts, president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, regarding the high cost of new drugs. The piece. titled “Another Voice: Cutting-edge drugs are worth the cost in the long run,” was published in The Buffalo News of all places (here).
“We shouldn’t fear the price tag of these new medicines,” says Pitts. “Expensive medicine may be a bitter pill, but these advanced therapies offer hope to millions of patients, keeping them healthier for longer.”
Unfortunately, the numbers Pitts cites in defense of that statement suggests the opposite.
Pitts says that the cost to bring a new drug to market – “from the time it is a twinkle in a scientist’s eye, through a decade or more of lab research, to clinical trials and finally FDA approval” – is $1.2 billion. This, according to Pitts, justifies the prices of the most expensive medications, including four biopharmaceuticals approved in 2012 that cost more than $200,000 per year, per patient.
At $200,000 per patient-year, a drug company can recoup the development cost by treating 6,000 patients in just one year! A far cry from offering “hope to millions of patients!”
Even with insurance paying for the bulk of such treatments, only the rich can afford the co-pays for these drugs that “our children and grandchildren will grow up to marvel,” according to Pitts. Marvel, indeed.