I find myself slammed with a busy work schedule this week, but I have to take a moment to recommend this post by venture capitalist Bruce Booth on drug pricing. It is long, detailed, and comprehensive, and I’m very glad that he took the time to do it, because it (and Jack Scannell’s piece from a few years ago) are where I will send people when arguments about drug pricing come up. I would love to do 5,000 words on the subject this morning, but I simply don’t have the time. I can, though, refer you to several years of my posts on the topic; frankly, it’s hard for me to imagine saying something today that I haven’t said before.
I am not asking everyone to immediately agree with Booth’s points or Scannell’s: but I am asking anyone who wants to seriously talk about these issues to take those arguments seriously. There are (to put it mildly) a lot of people who speak very loudly and confidently about drug research and drug prices who have no idea what they are talking about. The having-no-idea part is understandable – drug development is a specialized business that takes a reasonable amount of expertise to really understand, and analogies to other industries can only take you so far. But what does grate are people who spout obviously clueless things as if they were obvious truths. Short of that, there are still plenty of misconceptions that trip up people who are otherwise well-meaning and willing to learn.
So read Bruce’s post to get the perspective from someone who funds new small companies. Read Jack Scannell’s piece to get insights into drug pricing in general. You may well not agree with many of the points in them, as mentioned, but you need to be able to articulate why you don’t. To find what you believe are the flaws in their arguments, and to refer to hard data that back up your own claims. If you’re going to refer to past attempts to prove that drug companies do no innovation, provide no value, spend far less than they say on their R&D, all those other things, then you need to go back and read the arguments against those as well and be prepared to deal with them. The signal/noise in this dispute is not so good; you’re going to have to get past a lot of fist-waving and shouting (from both sides, frankly) to get to the real stuff (especially in an election season). Get to it, otherwise you’re just adding to the problem.