Can You Explode the Myths of the $1.3 Billion, the $800-Million and the $43.3-Million Pills? $50 Prize Offered for Best Answer

The Los Angeles Times just ran an editorial this week that caught my eye, mentioning a paper published in the London School of Economics journal, BioSocieties.

This is old news by now, of course. The paper was published online back in February and was meant, not as a groundbreaking study, but as a thought provoking piece designed to get readers to question the official numbers circulated by Tufts and PhRMA.

We’ve posted the item on, but an astute reader pointed to a rather heated discussion that took place in February on Derek Lowe’s In the Pipeline blog. Comments point to an anti-industry bias on the part of the authors, who quote Marcia Angell. This tone is obvious in the paper.

And those working in the industry are quick to dismiss the true R&D cost figure mentioned in the paper: $43.4 million, which even to me seems absurdly low.

However, the BioSocieties authors, Donald Light and Rebecca Warburton, professors both, make good points in questioning the accuracy of some of the accepted figures, and the lack of transparency behind them.

The question is: Can we get beyond the noise generated by anti-pharma types, industry lobbyists and others to get to the essence of the question?

What do you think the true costs of R&D, for a typical drug (let's say a standard issue solid-dosage frills, no controlled release, etc.) are?

Merrill Goozner discussed these issues in his widely read book, the $800-Million Pill. But did he analyze, line by line, the cost estimates and how they were arrived at? Could he, or anyone?

Please sidestep this user-unfriendly blog interface and email any thoughts or brickbats to me at

We'll run your estimates past some independent experts, let you know what they say, and offer the winner a $50 prize. 



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