Steve's Reflections


In 1999 and 2000, Steve Kirsch outlined his thoughts on a variety of philanthropic and political reform topics. Please select from the list to find those of interest to you.

Reflection #8

Why most new drugs fail to get to market

I’ve heard stats like "for every 100 drugs that make it to Phase 3 clinical trials, only one gets approved." Why is the failure rate so high? The answer appears to be that most drugs that get tested are not understood or they are non-specific.

For example, take Minoxidil, which was approved for baldness. Does anyone know why it works? No. Only that it does in "some" cases. And that’s a big-time drug (until recently when Propecia stole all its market share since it is much more effective.)
The problem is that the science is so complicated, and the interactions so mysterious, that often you just have to try a lot of things and see what works (i.e., empirical results).

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