Matthew Holt

Donald Light sticks it to PhRMA and Tauzin, again

Over the years PhRMA must be getting pretty sick of Univ of Medicine and Denistry of New Jersey Professor Donald Light. He’s made a cottage industry of pissing on the commonly-trumpeted propaganda that only American drug research is effective, and that high prices for drugs in the US cross-subsidize lower prices elsewhere in the world. And in Health Affairs this week he does it again. Essentially Light shows that the added R&D spent in the US compared to Europe doesn’t give much bang for the buck, and that not many breakthrough drugs have been created anyway—something that PhRMA knows all to well as it looks at its shrinking pipelines.

In global NCEs, European research productivity was about the same as U.S. productivity in the first period but increased by 30 percent in the second period (1993-2003), while U.S. research productivity declined 26 percent (Exhibit 3). In first-in-class drugs, European relative innovativeness moved from well behind the United States in the first period to well ahead in the second. These are the most commercially and therapeutically important types of new chemical entities.

Now personally I think that, in an era in which all drug research is pretty much international, the basic premise of the argument about which system does more effective drug research is pretty silly. But of course it’s a one-two punch. And the upper-cut that would leave pharma staggering if it didn’t have control of the microphone is this quote from Light:

Congressional leaders and others concerned about high prices of new patented drugs will be heartened by this analysis, because lower European prices seem to be no deterrent to strong research productivity.20 A previous analysis using industry-based data showed that pharmaceutical companies recover all costs and make a good profit at European prices.21 Europeans are not “free riders” on American patients–another myth promoted by industry that assumes that countries are separate R&D/market silos that should each pay for themselves.

Given that Billy Tauzin at PhRMA has already cut a deal with the Obama Administration (albeit one that seems to be unofficially official), none of this matters very much. But it’s good to see that it might just be possible to reduce the very high margins earned by big Pharma without necessarily ending scientific advancement as we know it.

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5 replies »

  1. None of the links work, and the Health Affairs website does not list any publications by Donald Light in 2010. What’s up?

  2. The relentless search for a drug to cure anything and everything I am sure has great value. The body of science about the internal chemistry of the human body, and of the animal and plants words, I am sure is of immense value and is meant to be.
    However as regards people being allowed their health, why does no one take a look at, how miserable people actually feel, and how they are often critical of themselves, and critical of their lives or their world, and ask has this got something to with their health?people are?
    Also, very importantlym, why does no one look at how many people of the world, seem to find their understanding of it, is complete, when they blame America and the West for everything,everything that goes wrong, everything in their view that ever has gone wrong, without ever being challenged?
    Does this childish approach to their own lives and their outlook upon their world, by means of it’s continuous and never ending nature, have an impact upon the health of the world’s citizens? Blame, blame, blame,on and on?
    Are we letting this take away our energy and our health by always, it seems, giving in, and even encouraging this view point?

  3. My close family members have been prescribed drugs for bloood pressure, diabetes, and other ailments. I am not happy with this.It is my observatation that many drugs seem simply to move a sympton, or condition of not healthy, to another area or function of the body.

  4. A couple of years ago I heard or read — and now can’t remember or rediscover where — that not a single one of the small-molecule drugs in the portfolio of Pfizer, the largest drug company in the world, had been created by a Pfizer scientist. They had all been created either overseas and the rights purchased; by a research university scientist and the rights purchased; or by another company Pfizer later acquired.
    If I can confirm this to be true, it’s pretty amazing. Can anyone else confirm or deny?

  5. Matthew,
    Count me on the same. I have been saying the same things for a long time. Pharma has pretty inefficient process, and have huge amount of waste. If you look into, their innovation line is broken. the only way they seem to do anything is by acquisition and that is where their innovation is comming from. The best way I describe the inefficiency of their process is this: ” We have spend trillion over the years on cancer research and in return all we got was viagra”.
    They need to improve their R&D process and even more the innovation process. Problem is they are too busy thinking that they are the best till you point to their performance.

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