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The Price is Right?

A recent survey revealed that over 70 percent of Americans believe that prescription drugs are too expensive, and of those, nearly 80 percent thought the pharma industry was mostly to blame (1).  Perhaps that should come as no surprise in a month that saw an oncologist from one of America’s top cancer centers – Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Leonard Saltz – use his talk at the American Society of Clinical Oncologists Annual Meeting to challenge the industry over the high price of new drugs.

It’s not just in the US that controversy is brewing; rising drug prices are a hot button topic in Europe too, with the World Health Organization recently recommending that European governments collaborate to help each other control prices. They also called for more transparency from drug companies  on their pricing (2).

The call is familiar, and so are the counter-arguments. The price of drugs is high but so is the cost of development. The price reflects not just the cost of developing that drug, but the ten others that never made it to the clinic. Some drugs are expensive to produce due to the raw materials or process required. But even when there is a way, there isn’t always the will...

We profile Peter Seeberger and Andreas Seidel-Morgenstern, two researchers whose work could have a huge impact on the price of crucial antimalarials. A plant is set to open shortly in Vietnam, producing artimesinin-based drugs at a fraction of the current cost, using solar power and clever chemistry. This elegant solution to a serious problem won the scientists the 2015 Humanity in Science Award (3), and yet, as Seeberger notes, it was not received enthusiastically by the pharma industry, who he suspects don’t want to jeopardize their revenue from expensive drugs.

Almost all of us will be patients at some time in our lives – we want drugs to be affordable, but we also want companies to develop new and more effective medicines. Innovation doesn’t come cheap.

One thing seems certain – doing nothing is not an option. As the population ages and healthcare systems come under increasing strain, we desperately need to find ways to cut spiraling costs. Is lowering drug prices the answer? And if so, how can we achieve it? Over to you...

Charlotte Barker

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About the Author
Charlotte Barker

As an Editor at Texere, I’m working closely with our audience to create vibrant, engaging content that reflects the hard work and passion that goes into bringing new medicines to market. I got my start in biomedical publishing as a commissioning editor for healthcare journals and have spent my career covering everything from early-stage research to clinical medicine, so I know my way around. And I can’t think of a more interesting, challenging or important area to be working in.

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