Is Medical Research on the Best Path?

Sunday, 15 February 2015: 1:30 PM-4:30 PM
Room LL21D (San Jose Convention Center)
Sharotka Simon, AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow, Diplomacy, Security, and Development Program, Washington, DC
Why are drugs expensive? This simple question brings no simple answer. Market forces make it difficult to put a dollar value on human life and health, and there are also a pressures tied to the research, development, and distribution of drugs and medical devices. The high failure rate of basic scientific research, coupled with a low approval rate by regulatory watchdogs, together represent both the expectations of a risk-averse Western society committed to quality and safety, and the consequence of complex policy and a source of resistance for ongoing drug discovery and device innovation. This introductory session will present a historical and contemporary view of how medical science is funded, performed, publicized, and marketed; how incentives to develop and approve drugs and devices are structured; who benefits along the way; who pays; how ownership is assigned; and how value is rated, including public perception of the products and processes involved in drug and device development. We start with a description of the US drug and medical device development pipeline, along with a comparison against the European model. Panelist remarks will include analysis of the drug and device industries, illustrating what works well while identifying the pain points and marginalized users within the current system. The discussion will conclude with identification of upcoming trends in healthcare and data management and will welcome participant questions and ideas about how the US drug development system can be improved to retain a focus on quality and safety while promoting innovation and improving availability for all those in need of a cure.