Study: Firms “underinvest” in long-term cancer research
Tweaks to the R&D pipeline could create new drugs and greater social benefit.


“The public sector is more willing to invest in these long-term projects than is the private sector,” explains MIT economist Heidi Williams.

Pharmaceutical firms “underinvest” in long-term research to develop new cancer-fighting drugs due to the greater time and cost required to conduct such research, according to a newly published study co-authored by MIT economists.

Specifically, drugs to treat late-stage cancers are less costly to develop than drugs for earlier-stage cancers, partly because the late-stage drugs extend people’s lives for shorter durations of time. This means that the clinical trials for such drugs get wrapped up more quickly, too — and provide drug manufacturers more time to control patented drugs in the marketplace.

“There is a pattern where we get more investment in drugs that take a short time to complete, and less investment in drugs that take a longer time to complete,” says MIT economist Heidi Williams, co-author of a new paper in the American Economic Review that details the findings of the study.

Read more at MIT News

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Illustration by Jose-Luis Olivares courtesy of MIT News