quinta-feira, 15 de março de 2007

Wall Street e o preço dos medicamentos

Não se origina de ninguém do governo, de ONGs, de partidos políticos, mas sim do próprio centro financeiro americano o questionamento do preço elevado dos medicamentos novos para tratamento para o câncer. Ruim, para os negócios concluiu o analista da Morgan Stanley.
From Wall Street, a WarningAbout Cancer-Drug Prices Morgan Stanley AnalystCreates Stir in IndustryAs He Sees a Backlash By GEETA ANANDMarch 15, 2007; Page A1 Two years ago, Steven Harr urged Genentech Inc. to lower the price of a key drug that was helping buoy its stock price. He was an unlikely messenger because of his job: a Wall Street research analyst whose investing clients crave profits. In a conference room with 30 senior managers from the biotech company, Dr. Harr said he feared patients wouldn't be able to afford the drug Avastin, which costs about $47,000 for the average 10-month course of treatment for colorectal cancer. He warned that Congress "will get involved when its constituents can't get drugs." Genentech later capped Avastin's price, acknowledging the influence of Dr. Harr, among many others. From his perch at Morgan Stanley, the 36-year-old Dr. Harr has become an important gadfly on the most controversial issue in the biotech industry: drug pricing. A burst of expensive new drugs -- routinely costing tens of thousands of dollars a year -- is boosting the fortunes of biotech companies, which say the prices reward investors, reflect the difficulty of developing these medicines and fuel vital research. But the costs are setting off a growing outcry from patient advocates, doctors and Congress, which is considering two bills aiming to bring prices down. Wall Street analysts rarely speak out for fear of alienating the companies they cover. But as Dr. Harr sees it, the high costs are bad for business. He has repeatedly argued that rising drug prices could trigger government controls, hurting the industry long term. He says soaring cancer-drug prices, generating fat profit margins, aren't sustainable. "I do not favor government setting prices on drugs because it will stymie innovation," he says, "but it is my fear that this will happen." Advances in research are changing cancer from a death sentence to a chronic disease for many people. That is also bringing huge new costs: In 2002, cancer drugs accounted for 13% of the nation's drug spending, according to Morgan Stanley; this year it says such spending is projected to almost double, to 22%. For now, the high prices of cancer drugs are continuing to boost the stocks of companies that make them. Indeed, investors who followed Dr. Harr's advice on Genentech stock would have missed out on a 25% surge in the two years he urged caution on the shares. Propelled by sales of expensive new drugs, Genentech, based in South San Francisco, Calif., is one of the world's fastest-growing companies. It reported revenue of $9.3 billion in 2006, a 40% increase from 2005. Net income rose 64% in 2006 to $2.1 billion. But a pushback on drug prices is gathering steam in the Democrat-controlled Congress. And already, the two biggest biotechs, Genentech and Amgen Inc., have taken initiatives to cap prices of certain cancer drugs. Dr. Harr "pointed out a potential risk that wasn't completely understood by everyone," says Jay Markowitz, a surgeon and now a biotechnology analyst at mutual-fund company T. Rowe Price Group. "What he said was relevant and it was necessary, but it was not a popular thought," adds Bill Slattery, a partner at Deerfield Partners, a New York health-care investment fund that has invested in Genentech. Dr. Harr grew up in Omaha, Neb., the second of four children of an attorney and a journalist. Conversations at the family dinner table were often debates on issues of the day; because of his strong opinions, his father sarcastically dubbed him "the diplomat." After graduating from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Dr. Harr was finishing his residency at the University of California, San Francisco, when he grew interested in biotechnology. In 2000, instead of beginning a cardiology fellowship, he headed to Wall Street. He followed a friend to the former boutique investment bank Robertson Stephens, which hired him as a junior analyst. Two years later, he moved to Morgan Stanley. Cancer-drug prices moved to a new level of the stratosphere in 2004, when two products came to market at huge premiums over others in the field. Erbitux, made by ImClone Systems Inc. and partner Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., was introduced at $10,000 a month. That was about $40,000 for the course of treatment for the average late-stage colorectal-cancer patient for whom it was marketed. The price shocked Dr. Harr. Biotech drugs, which are produced by live cells, were generally more expensive than pills that are a mixture of chemicals. But this was twice the price of other new cancer drugs on the market, and many times the cost of older drugs.

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