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Tufts’ estimate of $2.6bn for drug development questioned

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Recent data presented by investigators from the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development (CSDD; MA, USA) estimating the cost of developing and gaining market approval for a novel prescription drug in the USA at $2.6 billion has been called into question.

The Tufts CSDD’s research depicted a 145% increase in the cost of drug development since 2003. According to a newly formed international network, the Union for Affordable Cancer Treatment (UACT; DC, USA), the figures presented by Tufts CSDD are questionable and they are requesting more details on the methods and funding of the study

In an open letter to the president of Tufts University (MA, USA), Anthony Monaco, the UACT cautioned that the $2.6 billion figure presented by the study will be used by pharmaceutical firms to justify and support the increase of treatment costs. The figure was published as part of the latest in a series of drug development cost estimates that Tufts CSDD has made over two decades, each of which has shown an increase.

In the letter, the UACT explained: “Many observers will undoubtedly read the new Tufts study as a justification of high drug prices, including the very high prices for new drugs to treat cancer.” The UACT expressed concern that Tufts CSDD has publicly announced its findings without disclosing either the study itself, or information on who funded both the research and the dissemination of its results.

The UACT went on to state that it has good reason to be skeptical about the objectivity and balance of the research, because Tufts CSDD solicits funding from pharmaceutical manufacturers, and the authors of the research are known to have served as consultants to drug companies.

The group has requested that information be disclosed about the funding for the press release, press conference and associated costs surrounding publication of this figure. The UACT has also asked the president for details on the number of patients enrolled in the clinical trials on which the figure was based, what the associated costs were per patient, and how much money was spent on each trial overall.

Sources: Tufts’ $2.6bn drug development figure questioned; UACT letter to Anthony Monaco.

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