Risking $21 Billion

Blog-Icon-MI.jpgEveryone loves to talk about research and development, innovation and the next generation of products that will provide high-paying jobs to Americans. You won’t find a politician anywhere that says they don’t value these goals. In fact, too many people take it for granted that new products and processes will just gush out of manufacturing and business, regardless of what elected officials do otherwise.

It’s too bad that when push comes to shove, so many elected officials don’t have a clue about what it means to invest, innovate and deploy new technology and products. Maybe it’s because so many elected officials’ only work experience is in the law and they have limited hands-on knowledge about spurring new inventions.

The Examiner newspaper has done us all a service this week by running a column by Paul Howard at the Manhattan Institute, showing just what kind of costs go into some innovations. It’s why strong intellectual property laws are important–to help companies recoup expenses for products that never make it to market–and why a permanent R&D tax credit makes so much sense to an economy like ours.

Paul Howard’s article focuses on Pfizer’s work to develop a “good cholesterol” boosting drug, which they named “torcetrapib”. After 15 years of research and patient trials involving 15,000 people, they learned a lot about the downsides of this potential new drug and pulled it. That cost Pfizer $800 million in direct research costs and $20 billion in market capitalization. Pfizer’s case is not unique: it is said that it takes about an investment of about $1 billion and a decade of work to bring any single medicine to market these days. A nation that truly values innovation will want to encourage and promote that kind of risk-taking because of the benefits that flow from the new pharmaceuticals.

Howard says, “thanks to Pfizer’s woes, Congress has a bird’s-eye view of how difficult and expensive it is to develop new medicines, and why better science–and not more regulations–is what is really in the public’s best interest.” I also liked his wrap-up where he points out that, “innovation can only move as fast as science. If Congress is serious about promoting long-term drug safety, and not just scoring cheap headlines, the best thing it can do is fund the FDA’s Critical Path project. This project aims to develop scientific tools that can transform the hit-and-miss process of drug development into one defined by more empirical standards.”

Amen to that and if you want to read the complete article, click here.