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Robert G. BellRobert G. Bell, Ph.D., is president and owner of Drug and Biotechnology Development LLC.

 
Does the pharmaceutical industry give a damn or are we blinded by greed? According to the results of the Patient Access to Cancer care Excellence (PACE) Cancer Perception Index survey that was announced on World Cancer Day, 60% of respondents believe that pharmaceutical companies are “more interested in treating cancer than curing it.” Lilly commissioned the PACE survey in 2012, which used telephone interviews to understand the public’s knowledge and attitudes about cancer. It involved 4,341 people (3,009 were members of the general public, 663 were cancer patients, and 669 were caregivers) from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom.  I know of no pharmaceutical scientist or researcher that believes this is true, but the myths and misconceptions by the public regarding drug development and cancer treatments still persist.

This belief about the pharmaceutical industry is a “myth,” said Newton F. Crenshaw, vice president of Lilly Oncology in Indianapolis, Ind., in the press statement. “But it points to some big challenges that we have as an industry: to educate people about our motives, what we do, and how we work; to… work as partners with healthcare payers, policymakers, and patients; and to demonstrate our value,” he added.

For pharmaceutical scientists, they demonstrate their value by daily navigating drug development challenges and ever increasing regulations to provide needed cancer treatments. If a “cure” for a cancer is possible, pharmaceutical scientists would work to find it and bring it to the market—the need outweighs the greed. However, all therapies come at a cost. Estimates for new therapies are 10–15 years of development at a cost $1.2 billion. Reducing costs and time to market would reduce the costs of the new therapies. The Critical Path Initiative (CPI), launched in March 2004 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), promised to address the decline in innovative medical products submitted for approval, despite the enormous breakthroughs being made in biomedical science. CPI appears to be working—FDA approved 39 new drugs in 2012, the most in 16 years, and 10 of the products had “fast track” approval status.

We (pharmaceutical scientists) care more about need than greed and the new therapies in development promise exciting therapeutic possibilities, from vaccines used for prevention to small and large molecule combinations used to reduce cancer burden and maintain remission. So instead of assuming we are all greedy, hug a pharmaceutical scientist today and say thanks.

How does your company show that need outweighs greed?