Cost of Developing a New Drug

When you google “cost of developing a new drug”, you get over 197,000,000 results.

Some of the top search results are from Scientific American, Forbes, JAMA, Policy& Medicine, Wikipedia,and New England Journal of Medicine, among others. In the images section, you mostly get a bunch of graphs and tables. Youtube also gives an interesting array of results.

The cost range is anywhere between $200 million to $2.5 billion depending on how they calculated the numbers.

The reports talk about the 90% failure rate of drug development as one of the factors for the high R & D cost. They mostly use the same talking points and arguments when talking about the cost. They refer to the company balance sheets and the “R & D Cost” line. There is always a funnel diagram to demonstrate the failure rate. When the info is not available,they make guesses.

And none of those numbers or arguments is taken seriously by the public when the discussion is about the cost of the drugs. In other words,the public don’t care how expensive it is to develop a new drug because the way it’s explained in these article sounds like mumbo-jumbo. The numbers lack credibility because the sources are often obscure.

Also, none of the info packages is created by a pharma company. Isn’t it amazing? I mean how difficult it is to create an article (or a series of articles) or a video (or a series of videos) or an infographic to explain the cost of the R & D? How many people worked on a particular molecule during the discovery, development, and manufacturing? How about the quality and regulatory? And supply chain? And hundreds of other sections that people don’t even know about. How about also publishing information when a molecule fails and how all the money spent on that project so far have come to naught?

Because the information is not coming from the pharma industry, the narrative is being defined by the other writers most of whom don’t know everything that goes into developing a new drug.

The sick people, drugs, and the argument over the price of the drugs are going to be around forever and sooner the pharma industry explains it, the better. The issue of the cost of a new drug will not settle until properly explained by the pharma industry with open and honest communication.

Developing a new drug is a hard, long and expensive journey.There are lots of misconceptions about it because the info is not transparent and it’s veiled in secrecy. But the pharma industry must make an honest effort to explain why the drugs are expensive.

The explanation won’t be easy. How can you explain something that takes ~15 years, a couple of billions and thousands of people to do in a simple way without losing the audience attention? But that is something the pharma industry must do.

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