In an article appearing in this months issue of Nature Biotechnology, Dr. Henry I. Miller declares that activism against the pharmaceutical industry is unconscionable. His pharma-apologia is thoroughly conventional: it is the high cost (upwards of $800 million per drug) and high risk of drug development not profit-grubbing that prevents the industry from making drugs any cheaper or any more widely available than they are. Therefore, he finds opposition to an industry -- which, according to him, has improved the publics health and well-being for decades -- difficult to explain. Nonetheless, he gives it a shot and the explanation he comes up with is paranoia on the part of pharma critics whom he believes are also mendacious and manipulative.

Perhaps Dr. Miller, overwhelmed by his duties at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (dedicated to advancing liberty, i.e., free markets and limited government) missed the publication in 2004 of Marcia Angells The Truth about the Drug Companies (excerpted here) in which she dissected the $802 million R&D figure that drug companies love to quote and explained how this imaginary number came into existence. (She estimates the actual average cost of bringing a drug to market at well under $100 million.)

While we appreciate Dr. Millers enticing attempt to attribute opposition to the pharma industry to paranoia (for which surely there is drug treatment available), pharmas astronomical profits (more than $6 billion in 2004), intense lobbying of federal officials (in the US, pharma spends more on lobbying than any other industry) and well-documented conflicts of interest are more likely causes. For more details on pharmas systemic ills, read ETC Groups latest Oligopoly Inc Communiqué and to keep up-to-date, subscribe to AHRPs email service .