MSF supports reintroduction of Pharmaceutical Research Transparency Act

The legislation requires that pharmaceutical corporations publicly disclose clinical trial costs.

Hepatitis E vaccine

South Sudan 2022 © Peter Caton/MSF

NEW YORK, MAY 9, 2023—The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) applauds today’s reintroduction of the Pharmaceutical Research Transparency Act, a bicameral bill that was first introduced in 2022. The legislation would require pharmaceutical corporations and other drug developers to publicly disclose the costs of clinical trials on a government website and in their annual financial reporting. This transparency would give people, governments, and treatment providers like MSF more leverage to negotiate fair prices.

Pharmaceutical corporations justify charging high prices for medicines, vaccines, and diagnostics by saying that it costs billions of dollars to bring these products to market. However, there’s no way to know how truthful these claims are because companies conceal the details of their spending on research and development (R&D), including the costs of clinical trials, the most expensive part of the process. The evidence we do have suggests companies’ overall cost estimates are inflated.

For several years, MSF has been calling on the US government to publicly disclose the costs of clinical trials, similar to how clinical trial results are already made public on the federal website.

Ava Alkon, policy advisor at MSF-USA, said of the bill’s reintroduction:

“It's encouraging to see continued support for this critical piece of legislation that could help make medicines more affordable for everyone, everywhere.

“The struggle to afford medications isn’t unique to people living in the US. All over the world, our teams work in places where lifesaving medical products like pneumonia vaccines and tuberculosis drugs are priced out of reach for people who need them.

“Pharmaceutical corporations contend that the amount they have to pay for drug development justifies their high drug prices, but they don’t have to substantiate that claim with data, even when taxpayer dollars have subsidized their R&D.

“The Pharmaceutical Research Transparency Act would help shine much-needed light on how much companies and other drug developers really spend to create new drugs by making the cost of clinical trials—the most expensive part of the R&D process—public.

“Knowing these costs would put MSF, the US government, and other purchasers of medicines in stronger positions to hold drug companies to account for their prices and negotiate fairer ones.

“As the largest funder of biomedical research in the world, the US government has an opportunity to lift the veil on clinical trial costs and set a new standard for transparency and accountability in research—much as it did for trial results when it created

“Passing this bill would be an important step towards fixing a broken system that has failed time and time again to make medical tools affordable and accessible for people everywhere.”