The value of new drugs depends on your perspective

Here is an interesting survey from Quintiles, the large clinical outsourcing company, on how different groups perceive the value of new drugs.

The first problem is that not everyone can agree on what’s valuable. Surveying managed-care people and physicians, the number one factor mentioned is cost. Biopharma respondents mentioned cost, but were more weighted toward outcomes (which, for example, was a factor in only 10% of the physician responses). Patients … well, patients mentioned cost, but not as much as the doctors or insurance people, and they hardly noted outcomes at all (single digits). “Not sure” was a front-runner.

When things were asked in a less free-form way, though, with a list of answers to choose from, patient outcomes and safety were always the top two factors among all four groups – followed by quality of life, followed by cost. An interesting discrepancy, I have to say. When asked if they agree with the statement that “All in all, the money patients spend on prescription medication is worth it”, 84% of the biopharma people agree, as do 80% of the patients. Doctors were 70/30, but managed care people were 56/44. (These are all mixtures of “somewhat agree” and “strong agree”, by the way).

And when asked to rank various groups according to how much value they add to health care, doctors and medical staff come out number one, no matter who’s asked. “Scientists and medical researchers” come in second – except in the case of the physicians, it’s a very distant second indeed. (They rank themselves so highly that there’s very little left over for anyone else: 81% versus a bunch of single digits). But, interestingly, “Biopharmaceutical companies” get ranked at 11% by people in biopharma, 5% by patients, and at 1% by physicians and managed care.

So where do all these scientists and medical researchers, who are ranked much higher, actually work? Why, at pure, untainted institutes, one guesses – in spotless white coats, their minds on higher things, somewhere far away from the business of actually making and selling drugs.

Derek Lowe has worked for several major pharmaceutical companies and blogs at In the Pipeline.

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