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Outside the Lab Drug delivery, Professional development

The Cost of Treating Cancer

The road to creating a new cancer drug is long and winding, and paved with expensive R&D. But just how much money and time does it really take? The cost of anticancer therapies is continuing to rise, and the huge expense of bringing a new drug to market is often cited as the reason. Two US researchers decided to take a closer look at the claim, by analyzing the data on ten publicly traded drug companies. They chose companies with only one drug currently approved by the FDA, but also took into account the money the companies had spent on other drugs that ultimately didn’t gain approval.

The authors found that the costs the companies incurred were significantly lower than some previous estimates (1) – and that companies quickly make more in profit than they initially spend on R&D. The authors acknowledge that their method has limitations, but believe that the biggest challenge is shared by all studies attempting to analyze the cost of drug development: a lack of transparency. They conclude that “future work regarding the cost of cancer drugs may be facilitated by more, not less, transparency in the biopharmaceutical industry.”

Here, we break down some of the key findings.

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  1. V Prasad, S Mailankody, “Research and development spending to bring a single cancer drug to market and revenues after approval”, JAMA Intern Med, [Epub ahead of print} (2017). PMID: 28892524.
About the Author
Roisin McGuigan

I have an extensive academic background in the life sciences, having studied forensic biology and human medical genetics in my time at Strathclyde and Glasgow Universities. My research, data presentation and bioinformatics skills plus my ‘wet lab’ experience have been a superb grounding for my role as a deputy editor at Texere Publishing. The job allows me to utilize my hard-learned academic skills and experience in my current position within an exciting and contemporary publishing company.

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