The costs of R&D have been a recurrent point of discussion in the continuing debate about the high prices of medicines. High costs and risks of R&D have been used to justify the high prices of cancer drugs. Attempts to quantify R&D costs for medicines have produced highly variable estimates. There is also a lack of information regarding the overall lifetime return on R&D investment, and its potential implications on access and innovation.
Dr. Kiu Tay-Teo will present a recently published paper that compared the cumulative sales incomes of cancer medicines approved by the US FDA between 1989 and 2017 with the estimated R&D costs reported in the literature. He will describe the methodology used in the study and highlight the main findings, which include an estimation of the return on R&D investment and what it means from the perspective of patient access to medicines and future innovation. The study concluded that the observed returns for originator companies are far in excess of possible R&D costs. It argued that lowering prices of cancer drugs and facilitating greater competition are essential for improving patient access, health system’s financial sustainability, and future innovation.
Kiu Tay-Teo, MPubHlth, PhD, is Technical Officer at Innovation, Access, and Use Unit of the Department of Essential Medicines & Health Products, World Health Organization.