Justinian C. Lane, Esq.
Let Justice Be Done, Though the Heavens May Fall

Justinian Lane's Blog

Justinian's Blog

Which is more important, saving lives, or curing impotence?

Pharmalot (Great site!) noticed an interesting article at WSJ:

"Last May, Lee Hollett received an unsettling letter. He had been taking an experimental drug as part of a clinical trial for patients with a fatal degenerative disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. But the trial's supply of the drug was running low, the letter warned, and there was no money to buy more. Could Mr. Hollett send a check?...

The fact that Mr. Hollett's trial turned to such unusual fund-raising tactics underscores a great challenge in the world of rare diseases, where few treatment options may exist. Big drugmakers see little financial benefit in drugs for diseases such as ALS, with only around 5,600 new cases each year. So doctors and patients must often find creative solutions to get research off the ground and keep it going." (Emphasis added.)

Greedy trial lawyers are often accused of causing pharmaceuticals to either not develop or not release life-saving drugs because of purported liability fears. But the truth is that it's far more profitable to sell drugs to the millions (maybe even billions) of people who suffer from nonfatal diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, impotence, hair loss, arthritis, and restless leg syndrome than it is to sell drugs to the thousands of people who suffer from fatal diseases. Pharmaceutical companies aren't in the business of making drugs; they're in the business of making money. A similar argument can be advanced about vaccines. If you were a drug manufacturer, would you rather develop a vaccine that customers will only take once during their lifetime, or a pill that customers will take every day for the rest of their lives?

Pharmaceuticals blame greedy lawyers for preventing lifesaving medicines from being developed or sold, but it's really greedy pharmaceutical executives who are to blame.