He starts out with a stinging statement: “There’s not really much doubt: If you want to reach the upper echelons of wealth, creating a social networking site is a better bet than inventing a drug.”
Yes, it does appear that our culture seems to value a product where human beings can trade gossip, share photos and try to appear to have fun, exciting lives, more than a lifesaving drug or medical device. (OK, disclaimer here — I have a Facebook account too and am guilty of the latter two excesses.)
But instead of merely striking a note of sour grapes, Herper makes some important suggestions about how to innovate in healthcare such that players in the industry can also reap rich rewards.
He has four remedies:
- Don’t stress on drug development that is costly and time consuming. Focus instead on diagnostics.
- Development of antibiotics has been abandoned by the pharmaceutical industry.
- Adopt “precompetitive” or as I take it to mean open-source approach to innovation by freeing up research data locked in the bowels of a large pharma firm.
- Overhaul the patent system whereby drugs can be patented for longer periods while newer drugs are used sparingly in the beginning.
I am not sure how this last idea will be received in the generics industry given that they do increase the access to lifesaving drugs in less-privileged quarters of the world.
Still, Herper’s analysis provides food for thought. And the hope, however slim, that innovation in medicine will be valued a little bit higher than society has traditionally.
[Photo Credit: freedigitalphotos.net]