Viewpoint: Pharma should give trial participants a say in pricing new drugs

Drug companies should accept pricing input from clinical trial participants, according to Spencer Phillips Hey, PhD, a research fellow at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and a faculty member at the Center for Bioethics at Harvard Medical School, both in Boston.

"People who volunteer to participate in clinical trials of new drugs provide a valuable service to pharmaceutical companies and to the rest of us," Dr. Hey wrote in a recent op-ed for STAT. "In return, I think that they should have a say in how much these drugs will cost when they hit the market."

He said clinical trial participants are in a "potentially powerful position," since drugmakers can't develop and market new drugs without people first volunteering to participate in trials sponsored by drug companies. These individuals are donating their bodies — and sometimes their lives — to the health of future patients and the financial gains of the drug industry, said Dr. Hey.

"I propose that every drug company should have to work with its clinical trial participants to set a price limit on the new medication, should it come to market, and to put this limit into a binding contract," he wrote in the op-ed.

While Dr. Hey acknowledged many potential barriers and complications to this approach, he said the process would develop a patient-centric model for lowering the price of new medications.

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