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What Is the Public’s Right to Access Medical Discoveries Based on Federally Funded Research?

Carolyn L. Treasure, BA1; Jerry Avorn, MD2; Aaron S. Kesselheim, MD, JD, MPH1
[+] Author Affiliations
1Program on Regulation, Therapeutics, and Law, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
2Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2014;311(9):907-908. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.404.
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Many important medications available today have been developed with public dollars and are costly to patients and other payers. Manufacturers justify these prices on the basis of the substantial research investment required to develop new drugs and conduct clinical trials demonstrating their utility and safety. But this rationale is more problematic when the government has funded a great deal of the seminal research leading to a particular product. Federal resources, primarily through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have directly contributed to the discovery of some of the most transformative (and costly) medicines developed in the past 25 years, including imatinib (Gleevec), paclitaxel (Taxol), and erythropoetin alfa (Epogen).1

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