[Ip-health] Michelle Childs on the BBC: Do drugs really have to be so expensive?

Ruth Lopert ruth.lopert at gmail.com
Tue Feb 4 12:47:43 PST 2014

>From my review of the pre-registration trials of Nexavar - and using
industry's own estimates of clinical trial costs - I could only find about
US$33 million worth - and the drug had orphan designation.
Hard to figure out where the $1 billion (or indeed the $2.7 billion cited
by Bayer in the IPAB) comes from.

Ruth Lopert

On Wed, Feb 5, 2014 at 12:10 AM, Thiru Balasubramaniam
<thiru at keionline.org>wrote:

> http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-21834442
> *28 March 2013*
> *Last updated at 22:49 GMT *
> *Do drugs really have to be so expensive?*
> By Michelle ChildsMedicins Sans Frontieres
> A liver cancer treatment is off-limits in the NHS due to its unjustifiably
> high price tag, but in India the same treatment is available for less than
> £100 a month.
> In this week's Scrubbing Up, Michelle Childs, of Medecins Sans Frontieres,
> questions why wealthy nations are not doing more to drive down medicine
> costs.
> Sorafenib tosylate is a drug for liver cancer patented by German
> pharmaceutical company Bayer and marketed as Nexavar.
> Bayer priced the drug at nearly £3,500 per month.
> Until March last year, India - a country where half the population live on
> less than £1 per day - had no choice but to pay this sum for patented
> Nexavar.
> But to ensure its citizens had affordable access, the country has since
> granted a compulsory licence clause that cuts the cost of the drug by
> allowing another company to manufacture the therapy, even though it is
> still under patent.
> Continue reading the main
> story<http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-21834442#story_continues_2>
> "Start Quote
> People in the UK today should be asking, 'Why are these drug prices so
> high?'"
> Michelle ChildsDirector of Policy and Advocacy at MSF's Campaign for Access
> to Essential Medicines
> This has slashed the price of the drug by an astounding 97% - generic
> versions of sorafenib in India cost around £84 per month.
> In the UK, where an affordable generic version isn't available, the price
> is around £3,000 per month, which drug regulators say is "simply too high"
> to justify making it available on the NHS.
> Indeed, the watchdog NICE (National Institute for health and Clinical
> Excellence) rejected Nexavar for NHS use based on its cost-benefit
> calculation.
> The reaction in the UK to this decision was swift and censorious. Health
> charities - including the heads of Macmillan Cancer Support and the British
> Liver Trust - cancer patients and their families all publicly slammed the
> decision, and some even went as far as to picket the NICE offices of CEO
> Andrew Dillon in protest. But the one place the anger wasn't directed was
> at the prices set by the pharmaceutical companies.
> With health budgets that need to be controlled and the Cancer Drugs Fund in
> the UK under pressure, the elephant in the room is the cost of the drug in
> the first place.
> Why did no-one question Bayer on the price tag of its drug? Instead of
> asking, "Why are we refusing to pay for these high drug prices?", people in
> the UK today should be asking, "Why are these drug prices so high?"
> India did.
> Bayer has said it will challenge India's decision to allow the production
> of a cheaper generic copy of its patented drug.
> It justifies the higher price of sorafenib saying it needs the revenue to
> pay for future innovation. But Bayer has refused to provide details on how
> much it invested in Nexavar's research and development, the cost of which
> was partly subsidised by the US government.
> The only figure Bayer was prepared to refer to was the $1 billion general
> R&D price tag that GSK Chief Andrew Witty recently called "one of the great
> myths of the industry".
> It is true that innovative new drugs can change the way we treat people and
> we need more of them.
> But innovation is of little use if people cannot access new treatments
> because they are so expensive.
> This has long been recognised as an issue in the developing world.
> Increasingly though, those who cannot afford these prices are in developed
> countries like the UK. The innovation system is failing.
> A new approach is needed.
> We need to move to a system where new drugs are priced as close to the cost
> of production as possible - and where innovation is paid for and rewarded
> separately. We need innovation *and* affordable access.
> This is the prescription to address the needs of developing countries
> suggested by experts at the World Health Organization.
> But the UK, EU and other developed countries are blocking meaningful
> progress.
> With the UK, the US and the EU facing ageing populations and health budget
> blowouts, now is the time for them to start siding with developing
> countries on affordable access.
> It is in the interests of everyone's good health.
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