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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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March 23, 2004

A future of cheap drugs

From a reader:
It is really quite ironic that Seattle would try to save money by importing[drugs] from Canada while at the same time trying to attract biotech to the area. If the drug companies can't make money, which would be the case with price controls, then what's the value of a biotech industry?

From Editorial Writer Bruce Ramsey:
Well, yes. The first big drug by a Seattle company was Enbrel, marketed by Immunex (now Amgen). It is a wonderful drug, and it came out with a normal dose costing about $1,000 a month. It was probably because of this $1000-a-month drug that Amgen bought Immunex, and continued Immunex's building program at the north end of Elliott Bay. Drive by them; they are the biuldings Enbrel built. And Enbrel was not introduced concurrently in Canada, because it is the Canadian practice to wait several years until the price of the drug comes down.

Look at the biotech buildings in South Lake Union: Nice, new, brick buildings. They are expensive. The machinery in them will be expensive. The people will expensive--meaning that they have high wages, which we think is good.

But all that is paid for, ultimately, by selling drugs at high prices, meaning that Seattle has a vested interest in high drug prices. Still, Seattle does what it has to do. If I had to pay market price for drugs (which I do not), I might be buying them in Canada, too.

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at March 23, 2004 08:38 AM



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