CNN's O'Brien Links Drug Prices with R&D Budgets
The media rarely, if ever, worry about lawsuits sapping drug companiesâ€™ ability to fund research and development (R&D) for new drugs. Yet Soledad Oâ€™Brien found cause for concern with news that Wal-Mart will be offering generic drugs to customers for only $4 a bottle.
â€śThe company will sell generic versions of as many as 300 drugs for as low as four bucks a prescription. Most of these drugs cost between 10 and 30 dollars a prescription,â€ť she noted. And because Wal-Mart â€śhas a reputation of driving down prices in almost every category it touches,â€ť the prices of generic drugs at other stores might come down, reporter Gerri Willis suggested.
That led anchor Soledad Oâ€™Brien to worry that the good news for consumers would have â€śripple effectsâ€ť such as a â€śloss of R&D dollars.â€ť
â€śBut generic drugs are really just ripped-off versions of drugs that somebody else spent a lot of money coming up with in the first place,â€ť Willis reminded Oâ€™Brien.
Even so, Oâ€™Brienâ€™s concern for the drug industryâ€™s ability to fund research for groundbreaking new drugs is a marked departure from standard reporting on the drug industry. In reality, it can cost a drugmaker as much as $800 million just to get a new drug to market, though reporters have overlooked that fact in favor of complaining about pharmaceutical advertising.
On the February 20 â€śIn the Money,â€ť panelist Jennifer Westhoven repeated the claim from liberal Tufts Universityâ€™s Dr. Jerome Kassirer that about 90 percent of pharmaceutical marketing â€śgoes to wining and dining doctors.â€ť Westhoven and her panelists ignored the fact that in 2003, the amount spent on direct-to-consumer advertising by members of PhRMA, a pharmaceutical industry group, amounted to only one-tenth of that spent on research and development.
Kassirer even took issue with free drug samples that drug company representatives often leave for physicians to give to patients on a trial basis. â€śAny time you use those free samples, then the doctor gets used to using that particular drug and that raises the cost of care,â€ť Kassirer complained.
None of the CNN crew paused to question Kassirerâ€™s logic or whether his opposition to free samples might hurt patients unable to afford prescription medicine.