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January 31, 2008
Drugs and Money
Over at Megan McArdle's site at The Atlantic Monthly, there's been a run of posts on the pharmaceutical industry - touched off, I think, by this one from over here. Her readers are a diverse bunch, some of whom seem to stop by because they can't stand the posts there but can't seem to help commenting on them. So there are some interesting wrangles going on in the comments to this post on the return on investment for R&D, and the follow-up on why we can't necessarily just fund all of it with that marketing money. The next in the series was on the problem, which may have no solution, of getting other countries to pick up more of that investment than they do, and that was followed by one about why nationalizing the whole drug industry might not work out well, either. And today's entry is about what that return on investment might actually be, with an appropriate warning about survivor bias. (I'll add my two cents to that debate by pointing out the notorious Wall Street Journal article which suggested that the entire biotech industry, net, has lost money so far).
There have been some thought-provoking comments to these, some infuriatingly dense ones, and some from people who clearly have done drug discovery for a living. But perhaps my favorite comment of the bunch, in an otherwordly way, has been this one, from one "Mintun":
"Really, what drugs are there left to develop? I think the state of medicine we have now is pretty good now. If we can guarantee most people a reasonably good shot at 80 or 90 years before they die, what else needs to be done? It seems like we are shoveling resources down a pit to get ever diminishing returns? I'd be happy to live under the status quo of the medical technology for the rest of my life. In fact if it means I pay less for insurance etc. over my lifetime it seems like a good trade."
Other people have already let him have it for that one, which saves the rest of us some work. . .
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