Cover image for The $800 million pill : the truth behind the cost of new drugs
The $800 million pill : the truth behind the cost of new drugs
Goozner, Merrill, 1950-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
297 pages ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1430 Lexile.
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RS100 .G668 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Why do life-saving prescription drugs cost so much? Drug companies insist that prices reflect the millions they invest in research and development. In this gripping expos#65533;, Merrill Goozner contends that American taxpayers are in fact footing the bill twice: once by supporting government-funded research and again by paying astronomically high prices for prescription drugs. Goozner demonstrates that almost all the important new drugs of the past quarter-century actually originated from research at taxpayer-funded universities and at the National Institutes of Health. He reports that once the innovative work is over, the pharmaceutical industry often steps in to reap the profit.

Goozner shows how drug innovation is driven by dedicated scientists intent on finding cures for diseases, not by pharmaceutical firms whose bottom line often takes precedence over the advance of medicine. A university biochemist who spent twenty years searching for a single blood protein that later became the best-selling biotech drug in the world, a government employee who discovered the causes for dozens of crippling genetic disorders, and the Department of Energy-funded research that made the Human Genome Project possible--these engrossing accounts illustrate how medical breakthroughs actually take place.

The $800 Million Pill suggests ways that the government's role in testing new medicines could be expanded to eliminate the private sector waste driving up the cost of existing drugs. Pharmaceutical firms should be compelled to refocus their human and financial resources on true medical innovation, Goozner insists. This book is essential reading for everyone concerned about the politically charged topics of drug pricing, Medicare coverage, national health care, and the role of pharmaceutical companies in developing countries.

Author Notes

Merrill Goozner is former Chief Economics Correspondent at the Chicago Tribune. nbsp; Winner of six Peter Lisagor Awards, Goozner is a contributing editor for The American Prospect. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Magazine, Columbia Journalism Review, Washington Monthly, Fortune Small Business,, and, among other publications.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this fascinating critical look at drug and biotech companies, Goozner pulls back the curtain on the process of new drug development and answers two important questions: "where do new drugs come from?" and "what do they cost to invent?" Using case studies that recount the discovery, development and eventual commercialization of a number of significant drugs, including Epogen and the AIDS cocktail, Goozner dismantles the pharmaceutical industry's assertion that drug prices must be kept high in order to stimulate cutting edge research. The cost of each new discovery averages $800 million, industry officials have claimed. But Goozner argues that citizens are already paying much of that bill: taxpayer-financed medical research, he finds, has played a major role in each important medical discovery. Goozner convincingly argues that new drugs get into the hands of the sick not thanks to drug and biotech companies, but to the passion of dedicated scientists-in both the private sector and the public. A former Chief Economics Correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and an award-winning journalist, Goozer writes with skill and elegance, incorporating anecdote and history in a way that enlivens his research and makes his book an engrossing read. Though the issue of drug costs has been discussed extensively in the media, Goozer's study puts all the political chatter, news coverage and analysts' reports into a context where they finally make sense. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal Review

American expenditures on prescription drugs doubled between 1990 and 2000 and currently account for close to ten percent of total healthcare costs. Concerns about availability to seniors and the poor have led many to question these high costs, which pharmaceutical companies have always justified as necessary to spur the creation of new and better drugs. In this well-researched book, Goozner, former chief economics correspondent at the Chicago Tribune, disputes these claims. He chronicles the actual clinical process by which new drugs come into being, from basic scientific research on disease processes conducted at universities and government labs to the synthesis of new chemicals. Unlike Katharine Greider's The Big Fix: How the Pharmaceutical Industry Rips Off American Consumers-which addresses issues of advertising, marketing, and other questionable practices-Goozner's more scholarly study reveals how the pharmaceutical companies step in to take their profits (hence driving up prices) once the original government-funded research is done. Recommended for larger public libraries and academic collections in public health, medicine, and public policy.-Eris Weaver, Redwood Health Lib., Petaluma, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The pharmaceutical industry has convinced both policy makers and the public that the cost of prescription drugs is well justified by the expensive processes required for their development. Gossner (contributing editor, The American Prospect) disputes industry claims of actual costs, convincingly pointing out that much of the cost of the basic and applied science needed to produce a new agent is funded by taxpayers. In describing the successful search for AIDS treatments and the less successful and longer search for targeted anti-cancer drugs, Gossner makes clear the convoluted process of drug development. In the end, his thesis--that the industry concern with profits has stifled innovation and creativity in favor of protecting patents and boosting profits through the development of me-too agents--is well-supported. The final chapter discusses steps needed to refocus industry on finding agents to control widespread medical conditions and simultaneously establishing controls on pharmaceutical costs. Readers with limited background in science will find this well-written, well-referenced text a challenge. However, advanced students in the health professions will find the author's arguments interesting and cogent. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above. T. D. DeLapp emeritus, University of Alaska Anchorage

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
Part 1 Biohype
1 The Longest Searchp. 13
2 Rare Profitsp. 39
3 The Source of the New Machinep. 61
Part 2 Directed Research
4 A Public-Private Partnershipp. 85
5 The Divorcep. 115
6 Breakthrough!p. 137
7 The Failed Crusade?p. 164
Part 3 Big Pharma
8 Me Too!p. 209
9 The $800 Million Pillp. 231
10 The Future of Drug Innovationp. 247
Notesp. 261
Bibliographyp. 281
Acknowledgmentsp. 285
Indexp. 287