Drug companies have consistently produced new products that have done terrific things, but they are hated by much of the public, to such an extent that marijuana advocates have not only invented medical benefits for cannabis, they think Mexican drug cartels are more ethical than Merck. We only have no issue with the the reality that drug companies are going to be sued at some point no matter how well the products work.
Then there is the political grandstanding of politicians and an increasingly hostile regulatory environment.
The salad days for Americans are ending when it comes to new drug products but the same tired shills trot out revenue and profit numbers and insist drug companies are not penalized enough - it's all shades of the steel industry in 1973.
Meanwhile, drug companies are trying to get out of the US and, as we have seen in China, that has led to suspect results.
Like environmentalists who would rather see environmentally terrible solutions in countries with no protection for nature than have a pipeline in America, where we build the best, safest pipelines in the world, the critics on an anti-medicine jag want the industry gone, not realizing how dangerous it is elsewhere and how much of a disaster it would be public health.
So what is the cost of development? So high that if corporations stop doing it, we are in big trouble. As NIH Director Thomas Insel notes, creating small molecule medications across disease areas is, on average, a 15 year endeavor that costs over $2 billion and fails more than 95% of the time. Can you imagine the time and costs if government tried to do it?
Even for those people who believe scientists somehow magically become unethical when they work in the corporate sector, this is a scary proposition. For starters, government drug development means politicians would be deciding what drugs get created. Save all the talk about bipartisan, independent commissions, anyone who has been part of the grant funding process knows that is nonsense. While most approved projects are clearly worthwhile, and would be funded regardless of who is on a committee, many others are determined by the name of the school and the relationship the people on that committee have with it and whether or not people are advocates for a field, like sociology getting funding from the National Science Foundation. No branch of government is immune from political partisanship, never has been and never will be.
Business thinks about cold, hard cash and they don't care how the people with money vote. If a need is there, the private sector will fill it. Government instead solves problems that will get the most attention in newspapers.
Taxpayers can't afford to have government-controlled research in charge of drug development; not in an intellectual sense and certainly not in a financial one.