Editorials

High cost of new drugs

BMJ 2016; 354 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i4136 (Published 27 July 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;354:i4136
  1. Mariana Mazzucato, R M Phillips professor in the economics of innovation
  1. Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, UK
  1. M.Mazzucato{at}sussex.ac.uk

Why government must negotiate a better deal for publicly funded research

The investigation by The BMJ and Cambridge and Bath universities into the availability of breakthrough hepatitis C drugs raises important questions for NHS England about access to lifesaving drugs.1 However, the main question is why medicines are so expensive in the first place. The pricing strategy of Gilead for sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) and ledipasvir-sofosbuvir (Harvoni) raises questions that go well beyond the UK.

The BMJ’s investigation is just an example of a more general problem. What is the right price to pay for a particular drug, and how should this be determined?

Pharmaceutical innovation should be structured so that it focuses on unmet health needs globally and delivers therapeutic advances that are affordable and accessible to all,2 not just profitable for manufacturers. This requires an approach that directs effort towards therapeutic innovations rather than “me too” drugs, and a financing and pricing structure which is transparent, focused on access, and reflects the collective investment and risk taking involved.

Drug companies have often …

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