Details sought about how university determined cost of bringing a drug to market jumped 145% since 2003

Recent data indicating that it costs about $2.6 billion (£1.65 billion) to develop and win market approval for a new prescription drug in the US has come under scrutiny. The figures from Tufts University researchers that depict a 145% increase in the cost of developing a drug since 2003 are questionable, according to the recently formed Union for Affordable Cancer Treatment (UACT). The international network is now demanding more details from Tufts about the methods and funding behind its estimate.

In letter to the president of Tufts, Anthony Monaco, the UACT warned that the $2.6 billion figure – which is says is the latest in a series of increasing drug development cost estimates that Tufts’ Center for the Study of Drug Development has made over two decades – will be used by pharmaceutical firms to support increases in treatment costs.

‘Many observers will undoubtedly read the new Tufts study as a justification of high drug prices, including the very high prices for new drugs to treat cancer,’ the letter said. The UACT is concerned that Tufts publicly announced its findings without making the study itself public, or disclosing who funded the work and the dissemination of its results.

UACT said it has ample reason to be sceptical of the study’s balance and objectivity because Tufts solicits funding from pharmaceutical manufacturers and the study’s authors have served as consultants to drug companies.

The group has requested details about who paid for the study’s press release, press conference and expenses. UACT also wants Tufts to disclose how many patients were enrolled in the clinical trials on which the final figures are based, as well as how much money was spent on these trials, and the associated costs per patient.