The Truth About Drug Innovation: Thirty-Five Summary Case Histories on Private Sector Contributions to Pharmaceutical Science

Publication Date: June 2008

Publisher: Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. Center for Medical Progress

Author(s): Benjamin Zycher; Joseph A. DiMasi; Christopher-Paul Milne

Research Area: Health

Keywords: private sector; innovation; drug; pharmaceuticals

Type: Report

Coverage: United States


The increasingly important role of prescription medicines as both complements to and substitutes for other medical procedures, as well as rising costs for newer and more effective medicines, has precipitated an array of proposals for reducing private and public spending on drugs. Some prominent observers have questioned whether the current system of research and development is as cost-effective as alternatives might be, and, in particular, whether the central role of private pharmaceutical firms in drug research and development produces commensurate social benefits. One contention that recently has attracted considerable attention can be summarized as follows: most of the scientific advances that yield new and improved medicines are the fruit of research financed or conducted by public agencies, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) foremost among them, rather than the pharmaceutical companies that produce and market them.

The goal of this study is to test the accuracy of this proposition. To do so, we compiled summary case histories of thirty-five drugs and drug classes (a group of drugs used to treat a given medical condition in similar ways) identified in the scholarly literature as important and/or that were among the most prescribed in 2007.