Why Are Costs Soaring to Bring a New Drug to Market?

Poor decision making may cancel out advances in lower costs and increased research speed.

The budget for bringing a new drug to market is rapidly exceeding astronomical levels.

Experts claim that poor technological choices and wrong methods have caused exorbitant costs for bringing these new drugs to the market.

A study conducted at the University of Oxford and published in the PLOS ONE journal examined decision making in drug discovery by using economist mathematical tools.

The results of the study showed that discovering a new effective drug is sensitive to the validity of the experimental methods. Small changes in validity, specifically how well experimental results predict results in sick people, can have a larger effect than performing 10 or 100 times more experiments.

Since most predictive methods lead to the discovery of effective drugs, the research will come to a stop in those areas, which results in a decline in productivity, the study found. This causes scientists to use less predictive methods for untreated diseases.

Furthermore, researchers believe that changing scientific and industrial fashions contribute to the problem as well.

This has led to methods becoming less predictive over time, poor decisions being made, and the cost of discovery increasing.

Since 2012, there has been a rise in the number of drug approvals due to the use of genetic information that improves the validity of the methods. This helps discover treatments for rare diseases, but less so for common diseases.

“There is a nasty puzzle at the heart of modern biomedical research,” said study co-author, Dr. Jack Scannell. “On one hand, the technologies that people think are important have become hundreds, thousands, or even billions of times cheaper. On the other hand, it costs nearly 100 times more to bring a drug to market today than it did in 1950. New drugs can be very expensive, yet the industry is closing labs and firing scientists. Our work goes some way towards explaining the puzzle. Governments, companies, and charities should focus on identifying and funding predictive methods, even if they don't match current scientific fashion.”