The public already knows that the medicines we make can be enormously valuable. They just think we charge too much for them, and it is hard to find a good argument that we aren’t doing that. Take Sovaldi — Gilead launched a cure for the scourge of hepatitis C, something everyone wanted, priced it at what the market couldn’t refuse, and then faced the inevitable backlash.
In good years, innovation in the pharmaceutical industry amounts to 30 to 40 new products. Yet we’re charging the world for the 50,000 candidates that it took us to get to those 30 or 40. And that ratio is unlikely to change for as long as the market will bear the increasing cost. Unfortunately, there are signs that the market and public opinion have changed, and the lobbyists have chosen to ignore them.
The answer to fixing the pharmaceutical industry’s reputation doesn’t lie in vilifying Shkreli. He just supersized its business model, one that the lobbyists are defending at all costs.
Instead, we must choose to be different. We need to regain our ethical core and to be, once again, known as ethical pharma. And that’s where we need real leadership.