why are drugs so expensive?

weetsie

Novice Member
been getting treatment on the NHS for hip and back pain i have had for a while now, they recently tried me on this pain killer which gave good results so they have now set up home delivery for long term so i no longer have to pick it up from the pharmacy. the courier arrived a few days ago with my drugs and i asked if it would be possible for him to leave it in the garage from now on, "no" he said. today i found out why, turns out the single package of drugs costs the NHS just over.... £3500.

wow :eek:

took my drug today, like i do every week, £264 a pop. also got a letter for the next 3 deliveries of £3.5k worth of drugs.

but get this, there are 2 doses and you can build up a resistance to it which is when they put you on double the dose which costs give or take a few quid, double the price.

insane, how can 25mg of anything cost £264? :confused:
 

Toko Black

In Memoriam
Some pharamcuticles contain precious metals,rare earths and other hard to source materials, but then there are the developement costs and shareholder profits to consider.

You want to live in a capitalist free market, welcome to healcare costs.
It doesn't help that the NHS doesn't capitalise on bulk buying power with all it's disparate entities budgeting and shopping seperately... much the same as the civil service as a whole.
 
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pandemic

Well-known Member
Research and development costs is the first reason.
It also depends on how many people need the drugs, the fewer people that need them the more expensive they are.
There are some rare conditions which cost silly money, but people are dependant on them. I remember someone calling into a radio station who had a rare condition and apparently only 3 people in the UK have it, their drugs cost £200K+ per month each.
 

Miyazaki

Novice Member
insane, how can 25mg of anything cost £264? :confused:
Pharmaceutical companies are among the most cynical money-grabbing soulless organisations ever known.

The prices are that way usually because they control the only source of the drug.

There was a massive battle to allow the sale of generic HIV medication to Africa, but the pharmas didn't want it to go because the cheap price would undermine their profits. They had to be legally forced to allow the sale of cheap generics. Look at cheap generic drugs like paracetamol, I think I bought 30 for 29p or something from the chemist.

The bottom line is they value money before lives which is bizarre considering what they actually produce.
 

Ian J

Banned
Some pharamcuticles contain precious metals,rare earths and other hard to source materials,
It's the eye of newt that costs so much :D

I have type 2 diabetes so all of my medication is free of charge which I assumed was due to the high cost.

At Easter this year I ran out of medication in Lanzarote but managed to buy a month's supply over the counter from a pharmacist for 2.5 Euros
 

Toko Black

In Memoriam
It's the eye of newt that costs so much :D

I have type 2 diabetes so all of my medication is free of charge which I assumed was due to the high cost.

At Easter this year I ran out of medication in Lanzarote but managed to buy a month's supply over the counter from a pharmacist for 2.5 Euros
It's very few that do contain expensive materials, usually cancer drugs.

The rest is down to patents and share holders vs' subsidies and whether countries buy in copies at cut down prices and ignore the patent infringements.

I had a similar experience with over the counter in mainland Spain, so I would assume that it's pretty cheap across the spanish provencies.
 

Vicarious_Eyes

Active Member
The simple answer is that pharmaceuticals are big business, just like any other industry.

The cost of taking a compound from discovery through to market can be £800 million over 10 or more years. It's a long, expensive process and for every drug that makes it to market, there are 100 that fail during early phase development or clinical trials.

As for "soulless organisations"? I refer you to the financial sector, oil companies and energy companies. There is a lot more good that comes out of the pharma sector than these areas IMHO.
 

Miyazaki

Novice Member
As for "soulless organisations"? I refer you to the financial sector, oil companies and energy companies. There is a lot more good that comes out of the pharma sector than these areas IMHO.
Exactly. I appriciate that the pharmas need to make money to offset R&D etc, but why can't their drug arm be not-for-profit? The financial sector doesn't exactly produce products that can literally mean life-or-death for 100s of millions of people worldwide!

GSK et al make enough money off Mr Muscle etc etc, and their other homecare products.
 
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KelvinS1965

Distinguished Member
Firstly let me say that I don't work for a Pharma company myself (I have worked for a supplier in the past), but just to shed a little bit of light onto what the companies have to do in order to sell drugs:

Every step in the whole process has to be validated. That is everything from the raw materials, the packaging, the processes to make the drugs consistantly and virtually every piece of equipment in the labs, production area, etc has to be documented and regularly tested. This isn't like an ordinary service type visit; for example every function on a piece of lab equipment has to be checked to ensure it operates exactly as per the manufacturer's specifications and if it has any kind of measuring device (temperature for example) this has to be checked for accuracy against a known standard. This testing has to be documented in a particular standard (often in the form of a large 'workbook' which has to be reviewed by the company and often their own staff will have to witness these tests in order to sign them off, which can take days or even weeks), which is also quite demanding on the Engineer performing it, the Engineer will have to produce in date test certificates for his calibration test equipment before he is even allowed to start work. If for example the 'as found' calibration check is out of spec, then they may well have to recall all the product made since the last calibration (which may be six months previously) as they don't know at what point this drift occured.

These companies have random short notice audit visits by the likes of the FDA who will pick pieces of equipment at random and inspect the documentation for this item. If they aren't happy that this has been completed satisfactorily, they have the power to stop the company producing that item. Therefore you can understand that this validation has to be performed at a high standard, so not every supplier can provide this level of service: The ones that can will naturally charge more.

Before a product can come to market they have to get all these processes, development and validation in place and approved, which is what costs the money. Consequently they want to get this money back before the licence expires and any 'generic' firm can then start up and start making a cheaper version of it.

That, in a nutshell, is why drugs cost so much.
 
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GasDad

Remembered (1964-2012)
Exactly. I appriciate that the pharmas need to make money to offset R&D etc, but why can't their drug arm be not-for-profit? The financial sector doesn't exactly produce products that can literally mean life-or-death for 100s of millions of people worldwide!
How much profit do they actually make on their drugs ?

Lets take the earlier figure of 800 million to get a drug to market - that's a lot of money to invest. Where exactly is this 800 million going to come from without the chance of return ?

Why do people imagine that new drugs should be any different to any other innovation? - unless you can point to a counter example, it is only the societies that foster the profit motive that produce the innovation.
You might as well berate apple for making a profit.
 

Big_Si_Owen

Active Member
Exactly. I appriciate that the pharmas need to make money to offset R&D etc, but why can't their drug arm be not-for-profit? The financial sector doesn't exactly produce products that can literally mean life-or-death for 100s of millions of people worldwide!

GSK et al make enough money off Mr Muscle etc etc, and their other homecare products.
Mr Muscle is SC Johnson... Reckit and Benckser do a load of home care stuff (like Finish dishwasher tablets etc)... GSK just make Pharma and Consumer Healthcare products (including stuff like toothpaste, lucozade, ribena etc.) But I get your point.

The reason that the drug arm of all these companies isn't 'not-for-profit' is simple... They're businesses and not charities. Simples!


A large amount of the cost involved is as previously mentioned. To take a drug from identification through to market takes 10 - 15 years and a very very very small number of these actually get through to human Clinical Trial let alone to market, thus requires a huge amount of money especially for very specialised Cancer and HIV treatments.

Profits from the sale of drugs (as well as going into share holders profits etc of course. I don't think any of us are naive enough to not believe this) go back into further development of new drugs. Other monies get used for acquisition of smaller companies who have developed a new drug that fills a gap in the companies portfolio, or unexpected failures in the product delivery pipeline.

Although perhaps we shouldn't bother developing drugs at all... Less people, less drain on resources, less drain on public monies.... Hmmmm ;)
 

dazza74

Novice Member
I think they use other treatments now but I always remember being told a neighbour was having injections of gold to treat arthritus. Having had a quick google they reckon 20% of the NHS budget is spent on drugs and other supplies so around £20BN or so a year. We spend as much on drugs then as we do pretty much on housing benefit currently.
 

Vicarious_Eyes

Active Member
Exactly. I appriciate that the pharmas need to make money to offset R&D etc, but why can't their drug arm be not-for-profit? The financial sector doesn't exactly produce products that can literally mean life-or-death for 100s of millions of people worldwide!

GSK et al make enough money off Mr Muscle etc etc, and their other homecare products.
On what do you base these comments? GSK recently sold an R&D plant that was set to close at the cost of 500 jobs, I believe the sale price was £10. If their homecare products were providing sufficient return, that situation wouldn't have arisen.

As for the financial sector, money and health are the two most important aspects of life to most people, I would therefore say that the financial sector DO offer products that can mean life or death!

KevinS - good post that gives a wee snapshot of what the industry is like. Although the FDA and MHRA don't turn up 'unannoucned', they do generally give some notice! Calibration and validation is a huge money spinner, the cost of parts and equipment in a GMP lab would make your eyes water.

Gasdad - your question is essentially the reason that many small to medium sized companies have collapsed over the last couple of years. Small sompanies (and virtual companies) rely on creditors to back their research against the potential future profitability of the drug should it make it to market. During the recession, that risk has become too great for many creditors, money dries up and these companies fold.

Large companies with marketed products are able to offset R&D costs against the profit that their products make on the market - without this, there would be no cancer research, AIDS research, diabetes research etc. etc.
 

Miyazaki

Novice Member
How much profit do they actually make on their drugs ?

Lets take the earlier figure of 800 million to get a drug to market - that's a lot of money to invest. Where exactly is this 800 million going to come from without the chance of return ?

Why do people imagine that new drugs should be any different to any other innovation? - unless you can point to a counter example, it is only the societies that foster the profit motive that produce the innovation.
You might as well berate apple for making a profit.
You are totally missing the point mate.

Pharmas are unlike any company because the drugs they make are life or death for many people worldwide, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The HIV debacle a particular highlight. Again, Apple don't make products that literally mean life or death.

95% of people with AIDS live in the developing world and the pharmas were literally holding these people to ransom until they were forced to do otherwise. I don't see a distinction between that kind of behaviour and the behaviour of the Somali pirates for example.

Much R&D at universities is produced by or worked on by Ph.D candidates who last I checked often don't earn a penny.
 
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Miyazaki

Novice Member
On what do you base these comments? GSK recently sold an R&D plant that was set to close at the cost of 500 jobs, I believe the sale price was £10. If their homecare products were providing sufficient return, that situation wouldn't have arisen.

As for the financial sector, money and health are the two most important aspects of life to most people, I would therefore say that the financial sector DO offer products that can mean life or death!
Have to disagree with you mate. A mortgage or an ISA or stocks and shares aren't life or death for anyone.

I don't disagree with the pharmas making money, I disagree with them making profit.
 

Big_Si_Owen

Active Member
Have to disagree with you mate. A mortgage or an ISA or stocks and shares aren't life or death for anyone.

I don't disagree with the pharmas making money, I disagree with them making profit.
I assume you're against private healthcare too then?

It's a nice philosophy but unless we had totally dependable global governance and ownership of the whole process it's never going to happen.
 

Miyazaki

Novice Member
I assume you're against private healthcare too then?

It's a nice philosophy but unless we had totally dependable global governance and ownership of the whole process it's never going to happen.
In principle, yes I am against private healthcare making profit if that is what you are asking me.

Drugs like ventolin which are used to prevent athsma which have been around for donkeys years made GSK £104 million in 3 months. People completely depend on these drugs to survive day to day.

Have a look at this mate:

http://www.gsk.com/investors/reports/q22010/GSK-restated-quarterly-product-analysis-Sep2010.pdf
 
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Vicarious_Eyes

Active Member
You are totally missing the point mate.

Pharmas are unlike any company because the drugs they make are life or death for many people worldwide, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The HIV debacle a particular highlight. Again, Apple don't make products that literally mean life or death.

95% of people with AIDS live in the developing world and the pharmas were literally holding these people to ransom until they were forced to do otherwise. I don't see a distinction between that kind of behaviour and the behaviour of the Somali pirates for example.

Much R&D at universities is produced by or worked on by Ph.D candidates who last I checked often don't earn a penny.
Look up a company called DNDi - that may restore a little faith in the pharmaceutical industry! They are funded by Bill Gates.

Last I checked, PhD students earned ~£15k tax free, although that was a few years ago when I considered it (and that was a drug research lab).
 

Miyazaki

Novice Member
Apologies that I keep editing my posts, my wireless keyboard is being a nightmare.
 

Miyazaki

Novice Member
Look up a company called DNDi - that may restore a little faith in the pharmaceutical industry! They are funded by Bill Gates.

Last I checked, PhD students earned ~£15k tax free, although that was a few years ago when I considered it (and that was a drug research lab).
The Ph.D I am considering gets my tuition fees paid by the NHS and that is it! Student loan all the way. :suicide:
 

KelvinS1965

Distinguished Member
Look up 'thalidomide' and you will see why drug trials are so expensive.
You beat me to it. One of my old customers used to bring this up at every induction we had. It was his way of explaining why we had to be so particular about even things like how we wrote the date on the documentation. All about being able to trace things way back. The documentation and testing in the thalidomide case wasn't done to the proper standards IIUIC and things got missed that shouldn't have.

If this testing before a drug comes to market was skipped, then perhaps we could have cheaper drugs from the likes of GSK, Pfizer, Wyeth, etc but imagine the outcry if there was another thalidamide type case?

I understand that it's an emotive subject, especially if you know someone how needs expensive treatment, but can't get it due to some 'postcode lottery' situation. However, at the end of the day they aren't going to spend billions developing drugs and then sell them at a loss (or rather sell them so cheaply thatr they can't can recoup their cost or heaven forbid make a profit).

I don't know why it seems to be so taboo for people/companies to make a profit when we all basically make a living doing that ourselves, even if it's indirectly.

@Vicarious eyes, I edited my post above. Perhaps the FDA don't turn up un announced, but they don't give much notice as I understand it.:)
 

KelvinS1965

Distinguished Member
I don't disagree with the pharmas making money, I disagree with them making profit.
:confused: Surely that's the same thing, unless you are suggesting that they only make the money back it cost to develop and bring to market, which just isn't going to happen in the real world as they are a business.:rolleyes:
 

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