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Big Pharma is a beast we all know and hate. They control every aspect of the drug market, especially prices. The price of drugs in the U.S. drives many families into financial ruin; with or without insurance.  

As much as I hate Big Pharma, though, I think they are a necessary evil.  

Big Pharma doesn't just make our drugs, they also discover new ones. The cost of the discovery process is, from what I can assume, what makes the price of drugs so high. 

In 2020, I took a drug design class. In this class I learned how drugs are discovered and manufactured. A statistic that has stuck with me from the class is the fact that it costs about $1 billion to discover a new drug.   

The price tag of drug design is a result of a combination of factors including labor, infrastructure and materials. Decades ago, drugs were discovered by happenstance, whereas today drug discovery is targeted. 

Most companies in the drug discovery sector utilize a method called high throughput screening (HTS). During HTS, a protein of interest (usually a protein that causes a disease) gets mixed individually with thousands of different chemical compounds. If a chemical interacts with the protein of interest, it will get modified by chemists to increase how tightly the chemical binds to the protein. 

Once the drug is designed and tested in vitro, animal testing starts. After a drug passes animal testing, it goes to human trials. This process can take years to complete. This amount of time– coupled with the materials necessary to discover, modify and test drugs– all contribute to this $1 billion price tag. 

Since drug companies are privately owned, they have to raise the money for research and development. They raise this money by selling drugs; capitalism at its finest.  

It's unfortunate that in order to develop new drugs, we must support Big Pharma. However, if we want to continue developing novel treatments for humanities ailments, we have no choice but to continue paying the price of Big Pharma. 

 

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