Big Drug Research and Development on Campus

Posted on June 9, 2008  Comments (1)

Big Drug R&D on Campus

Merck and Harvard just signed an agreement to develop treatments for the bone disease osteoporosis. On Apr. 25 rival Pfizer (PFE) invested $14 million in an alliance with four universities to study diabetes and obesity.

Drugmakers are counting on these deals to solve a persistent problem: underperforming product pipelines. Merck, Pfizer, and others have been losing sales of one blockbuster drug after another as patents expire and competitors charge in with generics. Big drug companies have fought back by spending more on research, yet the number of new medicines approved each year is falling. In the last week of April alone, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration rejected two of Merck’s experimental drugs, prompting the company to lay off 1,200 salespeople.

Past deals between industry and academia have been hampered by patent disputes and tussles over publication rights, as companies tried to thwart academics who want to share their discoveries with colleagues around the world. So now the companies have devised policies allowing their Ivory Tower partners to patent and publish their discoveries, even as they draw the professors more deeply into corporate affairs.

Funding university activities this way can lead to conflicts and problems but realistically huge amounts of funding are entangled with possible conflicts of interest. The biggest concern I is that universities will bow to the almighty dollar instead of their missions. And inadequate oversight can damage their credibility (not one failure, most likely, but if a pattern emerges). For example: Researchers Fail to Reveal Full Drug Pay (“The Harvard group’s consulting arrangements with drug makers were already controversial because of the researchers’ advocacy of unapproved uses of psychiatric medicines in children.”). Then find out the companies were paying them well, the professors failed to disclose that and the advocacy is rightfully questioned.

Related: From Ghost Writing to Ghost Management in Medical JournalsFunding Medical ResearchMedical Study Integrity (or Lack Thereof)Marketing Drugs

One Response to “Big Drug Research and Development on Campus”

  1. Sharaz
    June 13th, 2008 @ 12:09 am

    Pharamaceuticals has always been an area that has been dominated by profit margins, its a shame really that these large companies create pills for fractions of pennies and sell them with unbeleivable profit margins, some as exspensive as $500 a pill. I hope that the innovation of pharmacogenomics and pharmacogenetics in the near future will help to lower costs but we will just have to wait and see.

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