Drug companies aren’t spending enough on research. They should be taxed to fund it

Sovaldi, a new pill for hepatitis C that cures the liver-wasting disease in 9 of 10 patients, but can cost upward of $80,000.
(Associated Press / Gilead Sciences)

To the editor: The development of drugs such as Sovaldi is one of the crowning achievements of modern medicine, with its promise of eliminating the suffering and costs associated with advanced liver disease. (“We’re all paying a high price for drug company profiteering,” Opinion, July 6)

Although pharmaceutical companies such as Gilead Sciences Inc. helped develop these drugs, they are all based on fundamental breakthroughs from the past decades, such as the discovery of the hepatitis viruses and the invention of measurement methods for virus in serum, essential for assessing the efficacy of a drug, with much of this research sponsored by the government.

Although I agree with Dr. Daniel J. Stone that “the government should consider subsidizing [late stage] research,” I would add that the pharmaceutical industry should subsidize fundamental research. The pharmaceutical industry has largely abandoned its support of basic investigation, leaving the underfunded National Institutes of Health to bear the burden.

A tax on drug company profits used to support basic research would help the U.S. retain its current hegemony as a science power, assuring that similar breakthroughs will occur in the future.


Jonathan D. Kaunitz, MD, Santa Monica


To the editor: To find practical solutions to our nation’s drug cost challenges, we must accurately characterize the issue and the culprits. Turing Pharmaceuticals’ drug Daraprim is a brand drug, not a generic, as Stone erroneously asserts. (The Times ran a correction noting Stone’s error.)

Stone suggests overextending the U.S. Food and Drug Administration well beyond its public health and safety mission to regulate drug prices. Instead, the agency could expedite efforts to clear a backlog of more than 3,000 generic drug applications.

Generic drugs drive savings, not costs. A 2016 Department of Health and Human Services report states that generic drugs are “not an important part of the drug cost problem facing the nation.” Indeed, generics are 88% of prescriptions dispensed in the U.S. but only 28% of the total drug spending.

Any discussion of curbing drug spending should focus on promoting pharmaceutical competition and expanding patient access to safe, effective and more affordable generic drugs and biosimilar medicines.

Chip Davis, Washington

The writer is president and chief executive of the Generic Pharmaceutical Assn.


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