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More Drug Money, But Fewer New Drugs

Fillmore_pills.jpgYou’d think that if more money were put into scientific research, then there would be more results, or in this case, more drugs. However, according to a recently released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that examines research costs in the pharmaceutical industry, this isn’t necessarily so.

The GAO found that between 1993 and 2004, funds dedicated to research in the pharmaceutical industry increased nearly 150%. But during that same period, applications sent by drug companies to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for the approval of new drugs rose only 38%. There are many possible reasons for this poor return on research investment, including a growing emphasis on creating highly profitable "blockbuster” drugs (which are harder to develop) and high failure rates in trials of drugs developed to treat complex diseases such as cancer. However, critics (including members of Congress who requested the report) assert that even these factors don't necessarily account for the high cost of drugs already on the market. You may hear more mention of this report later on when Congress again takes up the issue of medical care and drug costs.

GAO-07-49: New Drug Development (Abstract)
GAO-07-49: New Drug Development (Full report PDF)
New Drugs Declining, Research Costs Increasing, GAO Says (Washington Post, December 20, 2006)

Photo: Mike Chen (CC)


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