To understand why medications cost so much you must first understand the process involved to get a medication on the market.
When you see a new medication being advertised on a television commercial you have to know that there is really nothing “new” about it. On average most medications take an average of 10 to 13 years to go from initial development to the drug store shelves.
Once a new chemical is developed by a pharmaceutical manufacturer it then has to register a patent to protect it. The patent is good for 20 years from that point. The developer then has to submit applications to the FDA to recognize the new chemical. Next is setting up clinical trials. This where this new chemical is tested to determine it’s safety and effectiveness. Once that is verified the chemical is given to selected patients who have agreed to participate in the study. There are several phases to these studies. If all of these phases are successfully completed the FDA then votes to approve the new medication. If approved the drug company will then begin a heavy marketing campaign to promote their new medication.
But here is something you don’t hear on the commercials. On average, for every 5000 new chemicals developed only 5 will make it past the safety test. And out of those 5 chemicals only 1 will actually make it all the way through the clinical trials and get approved. So for every commercial you see for a new medication you can know that there are 4,999 “commercials” that didn’t make it.
So what does this have to do with the cost of the medicine? Well, by some estimates the cost to bring a new drug from the lab to the pharmacy is ~ $900 million…. for 1 drug. And we also need to remember the other drugs that didn’t make it. I’m sure less money was spent on those, but all totaled there is a lot of money invested in drug development.
Once the new medication hits the market the drug company now aims to recoup their expenses. Obviously they do this by charging high prices for their medicine. Also keep in mind that the average new drug has only 7 to 10 years remaining on it’s patent. The drug companies know exactly how much time they have left, and they price their medication accordingly.