Oh this is such a superficially attractive idea – and so seriously stupid. Either we all pay a lot of additional taxes for basic medical research or we allow companies the potential for big profits commensurate with the risk investors are underwriting (and since basic medical research involves enormous costs to bring a new drug to market – and many more failures than successes – that necessarily means mind-boggling profits must be on offer to make the risk worthwhile). Don’t be seduced by the siren call of altruistic medicine – it basically means no medicine. Seriously bad idea.
New medicines must be approved as safe, efficacious and of good quality before they can be prescribed. But authors of two recent articles in the British Medical Journal argue that governments should introduce new criteria to the approval process.
In Australia, ensuring the safety and efficacy of medicines is the responsibility of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). A drug is efficacious if it cures or alleviates the disease or condition experienced by the patient.
Pharmaceutical companies undertake clinical trials to determine whether a potential new drug meets the requirements for market authorisation. The final stage of the clinical trial process entails administering the drug to a large number of people. The effect on these patients is then compared to a control group given a placebo.
This type of trial is designed to establish whether it’s better for the patient to take the drug in question than not to do so. But it’s not possible in this type of trial to determine whether the new drug is better (and, if so, how much better) than already available medicines (or other therapies).