It is unfortunate that a scientist like Dr. Marcia Angell would be careless in her use of facts in arguing that ?Big pharma is a two-faced friend,? (The Financial Times, 19 July 2004).
She says that ?prescription drug prices are sky high and rising fast.? But data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that from November 2003 to March 2004, prescription drug inflation was 1.5 percent. Over a longer period (January 1998 to March 2004), drug prices were in line with overall medical inflation, which historically rises faster than overall inflation in the United States. Drug prices increased at an annual rate of 4.6 percent over the last six years, compared to other major categories of health services that increased between 3.4 and 6.4 percent.
Dr. Angell also says that the pharmaceutical industry has been ?spending very little on R&D.? In fact, pharmaceutical companies invested an estimated $33 billion in research in 2003, about 18 percent of domestic sales and a higher R&D to sales ratio than any other U.S. industry.
She also mocks the industry for producing ?me-too drugs.? Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved 86 new medicines, including 21 new molecular entities and 14 new biologics. In addition, new drugs in existing therapeutic categories may be significant improvements over earlier versions ? as any AIDS patient will attest. The criticism about me-too drugs also disregards the basic scientific process that relies upon continual improvements in knowledge to reach the next breakthrough.
Dr. Angell also slams Pfizer for creating a new program to provide significant discounts to the uninsured in America. With distorted articles like this, it?s clear why the image of the pharmaceutical industry continues to suffer.
(Grace-Marie Turner is president of the Galen Institute, a non-profit research organization that focuses on free-market ideas for health reform.)