A recent article in The Scientist suggested that the “answer to stagnating R&D can be found in the creativity of the movie industry” (see “Why Pharma Must Go Hollywood“).

Interestingly, I wrote about the analogy between pharmaceutical marketing and sales and how Hollywood back in August, 2005 (see “Movies and Drugs: Same Blockbuster Mentality“). My thoughts were based on an article in the New Yorker critical of the Hollywood blockbuster model. My premise was that if it isn’t working very well for Hollywood, it won’t work very well for the pharmaceutical industry.

It turns out that maybe the way Bollywood — as the movie industry centered in Mumbai (aka Bombay) India is referred to — does business may be a better model for the pharmaceutical industry to follow, even R&D-wise.

Cheaper Tickets
The cost of tickets in the movie industry is analogous to the cost of drugs in the pharmaceutical industry.

Movie tickets for Bollywood films in India are the cheapest in the world. According to an article in the Wikipedi encyclopedia, “Bollywood sold 3.6 billion tickets and had total revenues (theatre tickets, DVDs, television etc.) of US$1.3 billion, whereas Hollywood films sold 2.6 billion tickets and generated total revenues (again from all formats) of US$51 billion.”

NOTE: Bollywood makes more money in after-sales of music CDs from films than from ticket sales. Perhaps the pharma industry should pay more attention to its CD/DVD sales. Big pharma companies — the ones who invented the drug in the first place — should continue to sell the patented drug as a generic or over-the-counter (OTC) product after the patent runs out.

Lower Development Costs
How come so cheap? Bollywood budgets are usually modest by Hollywood standards.

“The average cost of producing, marketing and distributing a Hollywood film is more than US$60 million though a Star Wars or Harry Potter costs around $100 million and only one out of ten succeeds. At the same time Shekhar Kapur’s ‘Paani’ which is tipped to be the costliest film ever to be made in Bollywood will cost $20 million and the average cost of a big movie is around $ 5 Million.” (“Bollywood vs Hollywood – The Complete Breakdown“)

If the pharmaceutical industry could bring the cost of developing a new drug down one-third (from an industry-estimated $800 – $1,200 million per drug), then it too may be able to lower its ticket price and get more needy (eg, under-insured) Americans into theatres (doctors’ offices).