Trilogy TidingsApril 2011
This month I touch on three topics, all of which have to do with innovation in the life sciences and healthcare. First, we must understand the means and methods by which patients are treated -- today and tomorrow; we can best accomplish this by informed dialogs with physicians. Second, investment decisions must be made to conduct the R&D that brings new methods and new products to the clinic. Third, out-of-the-box thinking and radical ideas occasionally transform patient care; we must always be receptive to that possibility.
I hope you appreciate the linkage among these three topics.
|Gaining Clinical Insight with Physician Interviews
Perhaps you've heard that physicians are losing control of healthcare delivery, gradually being usurped in their care decisions by the institutional green-eyeshade crowd, insurers and governments. Don't you believe it! Their incomes may get squeezed a bit in the coming years but their influence on care decisions will not be significantly diminished. And, they will remain the key gatekeepers and arbiters of new-technology adoption. Their views and their practices will continue to matter, so you must talk with them.
Several years ago I wrote a short piece for our clients and colleagues on interviewing physicians for purposes of market research. Those thoughts have resurfaced as the inaugural contribution to Quirk's Research Industry Voices blog. (Quirk's is a journal and online community for the market research crowd.) Their editors seemed to think that topic still has resonance, and I humbly agree. Check out the blog post to read (or re-read) my thoughts on wrenching information and insight from physicians.
|Data that Drive R&D Investment Decisions
The common wisdom is that the US life science community - in fact US industry generally - is losing its long-standing edge in innovation. This seems to be a fact, based on everything I read on the subject. We are aiming lower for minor improvements and avoiding investing in potential breakthroughs that are seen to be risky and expensive. Risky, for sure. Expensive? Maybe not.
Donald Light, a well-established critic of the pharmaceutical industry, co-authored a recent and very provocative article - a blistering attack actually - in BioSocieties on what he calls the mythology of the high costs of pharmaceutical research. Light focuses on a landmark study conducted in 2003 by the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. That study concluded that the cost to discover and bring a new drug to market was $802 million in 2000. That figure has been updated by 64 per cent to $1.32 billion in 2006 (PhRMA, 2009). Light rather convincingly debunks the Tuft study's findings and methods, ultimately concluding that the actual median cost to discover and commercialize a new drug in 2000 was $43.4 million. That is a remarkable conclusion that strains credibility! I commend the article to you to decide for yourself.
My purpose is not to rehash or debate Light's arguments but to raise a larger point. What if he is at least partially correct? Might his arguments apply to other life science sectors as well - diagnostics, devices, lab tools? Is it possible that executives of life science companies, and their investors, are deluding themselves about the real costs of developing breakthrough treatments and diagnostics? Could it be that aiming high is not much more expensive than aiming low? Just thinkin'.