Open-Source Pharmaceuticals?

LONDON – Much attention has been focused in recent years on the pharmaceutical industry’s slowness to develop new drugs and lack of productivity. But this crisis of innovation is also affecting the biotechnology firms upon which the large pharmaceutical companies now rely as the pipeline for developing new drugs.

This has prompted an examination of all aspects of the biomedical research and development process, as companies try to cut costs and improve efficiency and productivity. The result has been corporate mergers, reorganizations, and tens of thousands of job losses in the industry. None of this change, however, seems to have led to the radical shift required for companies to survive and thrive.

What might such a shift look like? Some propose abandoning the current system of patented drugs altogether and funding pharmaceutical R&D through taxation or prize-based systems.

Another approach to solving problems of innovation – adopted by the computer software industry, for example – is pre-competitive openness and collaboration.