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Salon makes absurd claim about prescription drugs

Salon reported Monday that $347 million is one of the low costs that does not justify a profit. We think that perhaps those who have to risk $347 million might differ on that point.

The outlet is again arguing how appalling it is that capitalism is involved in making prescription drugs. We do agree that the current system is not perfect but that’s no excuse for misinformation, inaccuracy, about the current system.

Salon tells us that [1] “ the phase 3 clinical trials (which is the least risky investment phase),” which is not really true. There is still a failure rate at this point. Risk is the cost of failure times the probability of failure, of course. So it matters what the Phase III trials cost, doesn’t it?

From Nature, an idea of the cost of those Phase III trials [2]: “But Novartis’s 8,442-patient non-inferiority trial of sacubitril–valsartan versus enalapril, looking at hospitalization and cardiovascular mortality outcomes, likely cost around $347 million. “ We tend to think that $347 million is a hole hunk of change. Note that this trial wasn’t actually about whether this drug cured anything. It was only – this is what non-inferiority means – about whether it does so as well as another drug.

You don’t need many drug trials at three and a half large to go wrong before you’re losing real money.

Salon is ranked in the top 100 media sites for law and government. It gains some 87 million visits a month. It’s an important part of the progressive media landscape. It’s worth insisting that they get these sorts of things right.

The drug development system isn’t perfect. But it is still true that the drug companies spend hundreds of millions for every drug they shepherd through to being available to treat our diseases. They’re not going to do that if they can’t make a profit on their expenses. It just isn’t true that government pays all the expenses, companies collect all the profits. So, journalism shouldn’t try to say that is true.