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Cancer drugs are the most profitable for Big Pharma

February 07, 2020 / KEVIN DICKINSON

The pharmaceutical industry's top earners are cancer drugs  a sentence that will be read to the surprise of no one. When sussing out why oncological therapies cost so much, the usual suspect is research and development (R&D). It takes years to develop a drug, deep pockets to fund that development, and then more time to take a drug through the FDA's laborious approval process. A 2017 paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) examined contemporary R&D costs for cancer drugs. The researchers analyzed the US Securities and Exchange Commission filings for 10 cancer drugs. They found the median time to develop a new drug was 7.3 years and the median cost to be $648 million. That's an extraordinary risk. Surely pharmaceutical companies deserve the right to recoup those expenses and squirrel away some profit for future R&D. Right?