While I was searching for Henry Waxman’s comments about Anna Eshoo’s PhRMA boondoggle which will leave cancer patients in financial ruin just to pay for lifesaving biologic drugs, I came across a bizarre claim from her cosponsor Jay Inslee. He seems to believe that these companies need to be granted a monopoly on these drugs so that investors can recoup the money the risk for developing them:
A fellow named Eric Limburgh, he’s Limburgh’s grandson of fame. He’s in Snoquamish Washington who was bedridden due to rheumatoid arthritis til these guys invested about a billion dollars to build a product called “Enbrel.”
He’s now up walking around, he’s a successful artist whose life has been restored because we have laws that allowed investors to put a billion dollar investment that eventually, through luck and incredible creativity, built this drug to save his life.
That’s the guy I’m thinking of when I’m voting on this, that does create the appropriate balance of protecting investors’ investment and moving forward, and I think that’s the right balance.
But an analysis by Knowledge Ecology International shows that it is doubtful that Amgen spend more than $400 million on clinical development of the drug before approval, and that more than half of the early Phase I and II clinical trials on this drug were funded by the government through NIH or by universities. Amgen invested money, but invested most of its money late, when the risks were low. And, on top of this, some of the Amgen outlays on clinical trials qualified for the orphan drug tax credit, which means that U.S. taxpayers pick up half the costs of those trials.
Moreover, even if Amgen had spent $1 billion developing Enbrel, they’ve been more than amply awarded given that Enbrel is the top-selling biologic drug with reported sales of $5.29 billion in 2007 alone. (PDF)
I was with a young person recently who has rheumatoid arthritis. Fully insured, they’re paying $1900 a month for Enbrel. They are afraid to tell anyone about it for fear it will make them unemployable.
The public already has significant investment in these drugs, at the most risky stage. Apparently Inslee believes that is appropriately compensated by allowing drug manufacturers to reap huge profits on blockbuster drugs with protected monopolies. The public is invited to go into hock paying for them as they try to stay alive.