JAN 12, 2016 11:16 AM PST

Big Pharma and Drug Prices: Where

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

The pharmaceutical industry, also known as "big pharma," is often demonized for exacting huge costs on life-saving drugs. Case in point, in September 2015, Turing Pharmaceuticals changed the price of a drug, Daraprim, from $13.50 to a whopping $750 per tablet. Though this overnight price increase was later rescinded due to overwhelming public pressure, the incident reminded us all that medicine doesn't come cheap. This is true even if personal greed and wealth aren't part of the picture. Ever wonder why it costs so much?

A study by the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development estimated that it costs a mind-numbing $2.6 billion to get a drug from an idea to a marketable reality. While this number has been scrutinized for being inflated, no one can argue that every step of the drug development pipeline is costly.

For a drug to be successful, the manufacturer has to demonstrate with rigorous testing that the drug is safe and effective. This journey takes many trials and even more errors. Of every 25,000 compounds that are screened as potential drugs, only 25 make it to clinical trials - a mere 0.001 success rate. And of the 25 drugs in clinical trials, less than 5 will receive FDA approval for marketing.

So does this justify the expensive price tag on medicines? Maybe the answer isn't as clear-cut as the pharmaceutical industry would have us believe. Watch the video and perhaps you can form your own conclusions.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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