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The Cost of Developing a Drug: That Mythical Figure

Biotech followers in 2003 were told that the time and costs for developing a drug are around 10 years and $800 million thanks to a study from Tufts that suggested those numbers. That money figure has ratcheted up since then, as most assume that, along with everything else, drug development costs are also steadily increasing. 10 years and $1.2 billion is tossed around these days, and seems like a fair calculation of inflation.

Now, a study in the journal BioSocieties has people talking about that figure again. The study suggests the median cost of developing a new drug is way below the Tufts estimate all the way down to $59 million, though with several caveats. (The authors of the BioSocieties paper are Donald Light of Princeton, New Jersey, and Rebecca Warburton, a professor at the University of Victoria, in British Columbia, Canada.)

We’re covering that news in more detail in an upcoming issue of Nature Biotechnology, but Bruce Booth has an interesting blog post discussing the article.

The truth is that the figure can probably be fodder for parlor talk forever, unless every single drug developer opens its books and we get a look at detailed costs over the past 20 years, and that’s not going to happen.

Brady Huggett

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