Why the pharma pricing argument is not black and white

Pricing is a highly emotive and pressing issue in the pharmaceutical sector. Those who choose to ignore it, or sweep it under the table are sitting on a time bomb that could jeopardise the future sustainability of our health systems and the lives of patients.

Yet, this is no black and white picture that pits the “money-grabbing” pharmaceutical industry against poverty-stricken nation states. This isn’t a tableau of illegitimate, high prices versus restricted spending limits. Nor is about the pill that takes 10 eurocents to make, but €50 to buy.

Far from it: this is a complex canvas populated by a myriad of hues and shades that reflect a variety of potential policies, societal concerns, economic considerations, elements of competition and, ultimately, value.

Biopharmaceutical innovation is not a tap that can be turned on and off at whim. Arbitrary price caps and other forms of cost-control founded on knee-jerk reactions to negative media coverage are not a solution. They could see innovation dry up, as firms leave particular medical areas that no longer offer rewarding incentives.

In fact, those who oversimplify this into an “us and them” pricing scenario are operating in a bubble and may find it difficult be part of the collaborative approach to a solution that is so urgently needed to address this situation.

As I said at the beginning, the pricing issue is emotive, but we have to be extremely careful that heart does not rule head. There is a plethora of arguments to support this statement, but there is little point in pursuing them here, when many have been captured most aptly in this guest post contributed to Forbes online by Robert Nelsen, Cofounder and Managing Director, ARCH Venture Partners Seattle.

Richard Bergström

Richard Bergström was appointed as Director General of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and...
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