As most of the friends know, I work for a late stage pharmaceutical development company. I love my job and I love this industry. This is the first job that I have ever held where it could have meaningful life-altering impact on peoples lives.
However, I am getting frustrated that people equate Pharmaceutical companies with “just another money grubbing corporation that only sees patients as walking dollar signs”. This sentiment was expressed directly to me four times in the last two weeks.
Lobby groups, blogs, media, politicians, acquaintances and some of my friends – all complain that Phara just cares about money and not about people! Demonic beings do not sit on the board of directors of these companies. These companies have to make a profit to stay in business and are run by good compassionate people, just like you and me!
How many people realize that the odds of getting a drug approved is about 1 in 10,000. Drugs are not cheap to develop in terms of real dollars or time. Is the industry supremely benevolent? No, it is profit driven, and sometimes Pharma goes to far in marketing drugs to the public, but this industry is one of the most regulated and has an extensive amount of governmental oversight to keep them “in bounds”.
People outside of the industry do not understand, I know I did not, about the time and cost to get a drug approved. A typical drug can take 10-15 years to develop and receive marketing approval from the FDA. The costs to develop a drug from concept through approval can range from about $250 million to a few billion dollars. Pharma companies must pay these costs upfront without knowing that the drug will ever be approved by the FDA. When a drug is approved, the company has a relatively short amount of time to recover the development costs as well as help fund other drug research candidates before generics enter the space.
I found a short slide deck that goes over the drug development process. It is a good, and short, read that should give you an appreciation for the time and costs involved. (I wish the authors would update the slides as the cost and sales numbers are from 2000. I looked through a few other slide decks I found on the net with updated sales and cost numbers, but I still feel the one I linked was easiest to understand and was keenly on point.)