Flaws of the current R&D system

Thanks to medical research many lifesaving medicines, useful therapies and devices have been developed over the last decades. However, our current research & development (R&D) framework has some major flaws and raises huge access and innovation problems, because its main incentive is based on legal marketing monopolies, enforced through patents (at least 20 years):

–       Only 1% of the overall health R&D investments account for neglected disease research, although around 1 billion people are suffering from such a disease. That’s clearly a failure.

–       But the current framework does not only fail for diseases in developing countries. No innovative drug pipeline is seen for example in short lifesaving treatments, such as new antibiotics, cause there is no market in the field of such diseases.

–       The current innovation model leads to high pricing of new medicines. Obviously that blocks access to many lifesaving drugs in developing countries[1]. But again: that’s not only an issue in developing countries.  It’s a challenge for every single European country and its health care system, especially in countries like Spain or Greece where austerity measures due to the economic crises led to major access problems.

–       In the current R&D system based on patents it is much more lucrative to invest in monopoly exploitation (e.g. by evergreening or other patent prolongation strategies, like the TRIPS+ Agreements, seen in the current TPP negotiations) rather than in the risky business of new innovative medicines[2]. Only on average 16% of the big $600b revenue in the pharmaceutical market is reinvested into R&D.

–       The public often pays twice: more than 30% of the new drugs originate from in Universities, payed by taxpayers. Typically this research will be outsourced to the pharmaceutical industry without strings attached in terms of pricing or access (-> see what UAEM offers as a solution to this specific problem: see GALF under University Technology Transfer). So, we pay first as investors in the development of the product, and second as consumers, facing exorbitant monopoly prices.

=>  All this costs us a lot, we don’t even get what we need and it blocks global access to the poorest!

=>  In addition we have no clue what R&D really costs, as transparency is very low and the current estimates are highly controversial.

[1] WHO estimates that today about 1/3 of the worlds population don’t have regular access to medicines – and affordability (price) is the main factor in this game. This leads to roughly 10 million deaths per year.

[2] According to Prescrire, in 2010, only 4 of the total 97 new developed medicines offered therapeutic benefits. medicines offered therapeutic benefits.