Prescription Drug ‘Follow-Ons’ Increase Competition, Reduce Prices, Tufts University Report Finds
Prescription drugs that are similar to medications currently on the market and treat the same conditions, or "follow-ons," lead to increased competition, reduced prices and provide improved treatment options for physicians and patients, according to a Tufts University report released on Tuesday, the Boston Globe reports. For the report, the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, in large part funded through grants from pharmaceutical and biotech companies, studied 235 medication that have received FDA approval for sale in 72 markets since 1960.
Although pharmaceutical companies have introduced more than six anti-cholesterol medications, such treatments have decreased in price by 45% since the early 1990s, according to the report. The report also said that hypertension medications today cost 72% less than they did in the early 1990s.
Pharmaceutical industry critics have said that follow-ons serve as "a prime example of what has gone wrong in American health care," as companies use "scarce research dollars to chase huge markets, not hunt down genuinely novel cures," the Globe reports.
However, Kenneth Kaltin, director of the Tufts center, said, "Far from being redundant, follow-on drugs create therapeutic alternatives, which enable physicians to individualize patient treatment."
Wanda Moebius, a spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, praised the report, adding, "If the first drug doesn't work for you, there is no such thing as a me-too drug. You have no other alternative than to find another drug that works for you." She said, "People aren't one size fits all."
Arnold Relman, a Harvard Medical School professor emeritus who has criticized follow-ons, said that no evidence exists that such medications lead to improved health care or reduced prices. "All you have to do is look at the pricing history of any drug on the market. It never goes down. It always goes up," Relman said, adding, "The companies go where the money is, and the money is in these big, me-too markets" (Rowland, Boston Globe, 11/10).