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Amid ongoing debate over taxpayer dollars used to generate medicines, a new analysis contends that public investments contributed up to five times more than what Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) spent to develop Sirturo, its groundbreaking drug for tuberculosis.

Public sector funds worth an estimated $455 million to $747 million were used to pay for clinical trials, tax credits, administration of a tax-deductible donation program, and a redeemable regulatory voucher, according to the analysis, published in PLoS One. By comparison, the health care giant was estimated to have invested anywhere from $90 million to $240 million on getting the tuberculosis drug to market.


Consequently, the researchers argued that the findings raise ongoing questions about the extent to which public investments should be reflected in the prices for medicines. The issue has increasingly factored into the broader debate over the cost of prescription medicines and more recently, equitable access to any forthcoming medical products to combat Covid-19.

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  • May one also observe that including the cost of “the redeemable regulatory voucher” is problematic? If JNJ ‘earned’ the voucher, then it’s a benefit that was publicly given. (And it only speeds up review, I believe, and would have no effect of User / PDUFA fees.) If they purchased the voucher, then it’s a cost.
    A worthy analysis but as was written above, one with “limitations.”

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