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Countering arguments by pharmaceutical industry

San Diego Union-Tribune
Letters to the editor
January 12, 2008

As the old saying goes, a lie told often enough becomes the truth. In this case, that it cost $1 billion to develop new drugs (Letters, Jan. 7). Over the past 20 to 30 years, the pharmaceutical industry has averaged net profits three times that of other Fortune 500 companies. It spends more on marketing and lobbying than on research, often including marketing research in its calculations.

It develops far more me-too drugs than breakthrough drugs. The majority of breakthrough drugs and almost all the basic research are developed at government labs and/or universities funded by government grants.

The true cost of developing drugs is closer to $120 million to $140 million, about one-eighth of what the industry claims. There are a number of excellent books on this subject available at the San Diego Public Library, including John Abramson's "Overdo$ed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine" (2004) and "The $800 Million Pill: The Truth Behind the Cost of New Drugs" (2004).

JOEL A. HARRISON
San Diego