Patented drugs overpriced, admits Glaxo CEO Witty

Andrew Witty, global chief executive officer of GlaxoSmith-Kline PlcAndrew Witty, global chief executive officer of GlaxoSmith-Kline Plc, on Tuesday sprang something of a surprise on pharmaceutical company bosses when he said in Mumbai that patented drugs were often too expensive, and the ''cost of failure'' has pushed up drug prices to exorbitant levels.

Addressing chief executives the Indian arms of leading foreign drug companies, including GSK's competitors like Merck, Pfizer, and Bayer, Witty said that companies need to find fresh solutions to tackle issues like affordability, access, escalating research costs and declining productivity rather than rely on "25-year-old" models.

He said that the high cost of drug discovery was "unacceptable", and urged the industry "to fail less often and succeed more often" and stay focused on developing medicines that are effective, relevant and safe.

The industry has to strike a balance between delivering innovation and affordable pricing, particularly in emerging markets and least developed countries, Witty said at the Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India annual general meeting.

Urging stronger intellectual property (IP) protection in India, he there has to be "presence of protection" to recoup investments in innovation. "It does not matter whether it is patents, data exclusivity or any other mechanism - but there needs to be a certainty," he said.

He said India has been slow in terms of innovation partly because it lacks a robust IP framework. While admitting that such a framework could not be put in place overnight and has to be a gradual process, he added that an IP framework would provide a bedrock for research.