Faced with a diminished drug-development pipeline in the private sector, the Obama administration is starting a federal drug development center, aiming to spur the creation of new medicines.
The new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences will get $1 billion in funding to conduct drug research with the goal of attracting private investors.
Federal scientists may go so far as to start human trials if necessary, the New York Times reports. Federal officials want the center to open as soon as October.
The National Institutes of Health usually focuses on basic research — like describing the structure of proteins, the Times points out. It's up to pharmaceutical companies to translate those structures into drugs. But under the new translational sciences center, the institutes might take discovery a step further, such as testing a new chemical in animals or even in human trials — steps that have traditionally been taken by industry, the Times explains.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved fewer and fewer new compounds every year since 1995, the Times reports. Meanwhile, big pharma has been scaling back research spending, and drug giants like Merck and Pfizer have laid off thousands of scientists in the past year alone.
One of the biggest hurdles is cost — it's really, really expensive to produce a new drug, with an average price tag (from discovery to commercialization) of $1.3 billion, according to a Jan. 5 report from Tufts University's Center for the Study of Drug Development. It's also difficult to predict whether a new compound will become popular enough to earn that money back, like, say, Viagra or Lipitor.
Given that uncertainty, and the regulatory hurdles inherent in developing a new drug, pharmaceutical companies have been reluctant to move forward with new compounds. Amazingly, this means promising drugs for the treatment of depression and illnesses like Parkinson's disease are going untested, the Times says.
The pharmaceutical industry spent $45.8 billion on research last year, which easily dwarfs a $1 billion investment from Uncle Sam. What's more, funding is still unclear, because Republicans in the House of Representatives have pledged to cut spending for discretionary programs like this. But an influx of funding could help spark new research in otherwise unprofitable areas, like drugs for mental illness, doctors say.
I think the main problem w/ drug industry is this:
They first find a natural compound from plants, animals, microorganisms that works against a disease, but since they cannot get a patent on a natural compound, next they create an artificial similar molecule that has similar effects. The problem is the artificial one has tons of dangerous side effects!
So the public ends up using dangerous low quality drugs for high prices, instead of cheap and safe natural drugs!
I don't know about you, but I wouldn't trust drugs that the government manufactures.
Besides, the gov't needs to be cutting spending right now. Anything that is not a necessity needs to GO.
The pharmaceutical industry wouldnt be in the situation it is now if not for a certain president in the 90's who put a 2 year limit on FDA pattents.
Before a drug ever hts the shelf it has to undergo years of research and 7 years of clinical trials. All at the expense of the company. It takes an average of 5 years to recoup the costs.
"So the public ends up using dangerous low quality drugs for high prices, instead of cheap and safe natural drugs!"
I'm not going to get into the politics here - just not going to touch that - but this I have to take issue with, because it's a science issue, to say nothing of a fairly common misunderstanding. The fact that a chemical is naturally occurring does *not* automatically mean that it must be abundant and safe for human consumption.
Manannan has it right. The article illustrates the massive, rising cost of approving new drugs but sort of overlooks the reason: increasingly restrictive (and thus expensive) government oversight. A $1 billion incentive against $45 billion in research is going to have very little effect.
There's a good case to be made that a significant portion of that oversight is unnecessary. Absent any government regulation at all, drug companies still have an incentive to introduce drugs that are effective and safe. If they aren't, they lose money, may be liable for massive damages, and may go out of business. It's time to re-evaluate FDA regulations and streamline them so they make sense and work with normal market incentives instead of significantly impeding them.
I am not against private drug companies but since they would not invest in producing natural drugs (because there is not much money to be made from them), only solution is if the government runs some drug research labs that focus on finding ways to produce natural drugs in large quantities.
For example today there is technology to genetically alter yeast cells etc. to make them produce any needed drug. (But it would work as long as you try to produce a natural compound, they would not produce artificial drugs anyway.)
Also even when there are any side effects caused by natural compounds, they are really temporary because natural compounds get easily breakdown in the human body, whereas there are some artificial drugs that stay for a long time and keep causing damage.
Our president is all to happy to spend money drugging people. However when it comes to real science that might move the United States forward, he like his predecessor is woefully lacking. It's all about bread and circuses, keep the masses numb and happy.
This is another example of an out of control federal government. The reason drugs take so long to develop and are so costly is because of government regulations!
If it can cost 1.3 billion dollars and takes years to bring a drug to market, then how does this government agency propose to bring even a single drug to market with a 1 billion dollar budget. And talking about human trials? For what! It takes years just to get a drug to the human trials stage.
Obama and the democrats are raging out of control. This is yet another example of a solution for a problem the government created, but as with most government "solutions" it doesn't solve much of anything and costs a fortune.
"I don't know about you, but I wouldn't trust drugs that the government manufactures."
Interesting... yet I'd be willing to bet you have no problem trusting the water that the government manufactures, the roads that they manufacture, the military they manufacture, or... even most obviously... the Internet itself which they manufactured some 50 years ago.
But no, yeah, you're totally right, we should have just sat around and waited for AT&T to invent the Internet, or for Merck to supply drinking water, or maybe Haliburton to build all of the roads.
JUST SAY NO.
OMG - when will a focus be put on strengthening the human body to use the natural healing abilities instead of trying to cure everything with drugs? Honestly I'd rather see more research on advanced technologies like stem-cell, "nano-bots" to heal breast cancer or even pure holistic health research. I agree with k4202, Just Say No.