Raising the price of out of patent drugs does not pay for new drug innovation, argues Médecins Sans Frontières’ Philipp du Cros in The Guardian, following controversy after the price of an anti-TB drug was increased 5000-fold.
Cycloserine, which is used to treat multi-drug resistant TB, is one of two drugs that raised a furore this week when their prices were hiked suddenly. The other Daraprim, used to treat a parasitic infection that is common in people with HIV.
Du Cros writes that pharmaceutical companies justify high drug prices in order to recoup research costs and pay for innovation, then counters that the continuing demand for toxic, old drugs like Cycloserine demonstrate that this model is not working.
The entire cocktail of drugs to treat MDR-TB is awful and the cure rate abysmal. Imagine if, after two years of taking drugs like cycloserine with horrific side effects, including eight months of daily painful injections, you have just a 50% chance of being cured.
The author suggest an alternative model: The 3Ps Project – push, pull and pool. To develop a new regimen of drugs for TB through an open, collaborative approach with incentives that reward collaboration and pay for research upfront rather than relying on high prices.