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HomeWeekly RoundupExperts claim that Big Pharma hides true drug development costs

Experts claim that Big Pharma hides true drug development costs

Bhekisisa banner1000In SA, cancer patients pay exorbitant prices to stay alive, Bhekisisa reports. And loopholes to SA’s patent laws are among the reasons medicine prices are this high.

The report says drug companies use the cost of researching and developing new medicines to justify their high prices. However, a study this this year found few links between the two. The research included 99 cancer drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), over about 30 years and revealed that companies coined about R200 for every rand spent on research and development – a ratio the authors say is unfair, even after they considered a reward for innovation.

Besides, companies aren’t always upfront about what costs really go into their products, says James Love, director of the public health law organisation Knowledge Ecology International. And, the report says, governments are falling for it.

The cost of clinical trials should be a simple fact, not a political statement, Love argues.

In February, the report says Italy’s health minister Giulia Grillo sent the World Health Organisation a resolution letter for discussion at the World Health Assembly. In the letter, Grillo proposes that drug prices could be reduced if countries forced pharmaceutical companies to be open about what it really costs to produce medicines. The plan is to give governments a way to enforce changes in the way medicine prices are set.

But, the report says, countries must cooperate for the plan to work. Luca Li Bassi is the director general of the Italian Medicines Agency and he says: “We’ll need everyone’s backing for the Italian resolution to work. All members states would need to take action.”

The report says currently, companies that bring new drugs onto the market are awarded with market monopolies that can stretch years through being awarded long-term patents that prevent anyone else from manufacturing a similar drug. For example, Celgene, the company that brought the blood cancer drug, Revlimid, onto the market, has had unprecedented protection from competitors for 40 years, according to a briefing paper compiled by the non-profit Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge.

Love and his colleagues want this system gone – at least in part. But, the report says, if countries don’t agree to work together at the World Health Assembly in May, cancer patients will be forced to keep navigating the exaggerated prices set by drug companies.

[link url=""]Bhekisisa report[/link]

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