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Tufts Study Finds Big Rise 
In Cost Of Drug Development

Pharmaceuticals: Benchmark report sees the cost of bringing a drug to market approaching $3 billion

by Rick Mullin
November 20, 2014 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 92, ISSUE 47

The cost of developing a new drug has skyrocketed since the 1970s.SOURCE: Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development
The cost of developing a new drug has skyrocketed since the 1970s.SOURCE: Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development

A New Report published by the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development (CSDD) pegs the cost of developing a prescription drug that gains market approval at $2.6 billion, a 145% increase, correcting for inflation, over the estimate the center made in 2003.

CSDD’s finding, a bellwether figure in the drug industry, is based on an average out-of-pocket cost of $1.4 billion and an estimate of $1.2 billion in returns that investors forgo on that money during the 10-plus years a drug candidate spends in development. The center’s analysis drew from information provided by 10 pharmaceutical companies on 106 randomly selected drugs first tested in humans between 1995 and 2007.

The study concludes that another $312 million is spent on postapproval development—studies to test new indications, formulations, and dosage strengths—for a life-cycle cost of $2.9 billion.

The steep rise in costs comes despite an intense effort in recent years to bring efficiency to pharmaceutical R&D. Offsetting any such savings, according to CSDD, are higher costs due to the increased complexity of clinical trials, a greater focus on chronic and degenerative diseases, and tests for insurers seeking comparative drug effectiveness data.

Noting the high cost of failure in drug development, Joseph A. DiMasi, director of economic analysis at CSDD and principal investigator for the study, says his analysis accounts for the cost of unsuccessful projects.

John LaMattina, senior partner at the venture capital firm PureTech and former head of R&D at Pfizer, says he saw battle lines forming within hours of the report’s publication. “People are automatically saying that pharma, and the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America in particular, is really going to use this to justify the high cost of drugs.”

LaMattina counters that pricing should be based not on R&D costs but on the value a drug delivers to patients. Determining that value, he says, is adding to the cost of drug development.



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A.Chandrasekaran (November 25, 2014 5:58 PM)
One glaring mistake is the addition of post-approval developments which are separate R&D. If at all anything, they should reduce the drug development costs. If one drug is used for multiple indications, adding the costs makes it look bad for the drug. But in reality it is a good thing because it expands the market with much smaller expense. Same way, formulations and dosages extend life of a drug. These part can be called as market development rather than drug development.
The development costs per-drug will look a lot higher for broad multi-indication drugs than for single indication drugs, though the former is preferable! May be better to use per-indication calculation on a weighted basis based on market need or some other metric.

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