Our Opinion: Big Pharma must reveal R&D costs

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The pharmaceutical industry has been asked by President Obama to put up or shut up about its claims that high research and development costs justify the skyrocketing prices of prescription drugs. Not surprising, the industry doesn't want to do either.

Last week's White House budget proposal contains a provision requiring Big Pharma to publicly reveal its research and development costs. The Legislature in Massachusetts, home of several pharmaceutical companies, has a similar bill before it.

Predictably, the pharmaceutical industry is aggressively fighting these initiatives on the state level and is now digging in against the president's provision. It knows that its Republican allies in Congress will do their best to undermine the president's initiative.

The weakness in Big Pharma's argument that it shouldn't have to release propriety information is that it brought up the argument of high research and development costs. The industry cannot expect government officials or citizens, especially those burdened with escalating prescription prices, to simply accept its assertions about high R&D costs on good faith.

Surprisingly, at least one Big Pharma executive agrees. The Boston Globe reports that Ron Cohen, chief executive of New York state's Acorda Therapeutics, told an industry conference last week that "It is absolutely right that, because we made an argument, society is coming back now and very rightfully holding us to account for that argument...[W]e made our own bed and people are asking us to lie in it."

And that they must do. State and federal elected officials ostensibly on the side of those who put them in office must insist upon it.


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