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Error on cost of prescriptions

March 30, 2007

Re "Shotgun medicine," Opinion, March 28

Eric J. Topol makes the same error with regard to drug prices and costs that we caution our freshman economics students to avoid.

The societal cost of another prescription is not its price but its marginal cost: the cost of producing and selling one more pill, which of course is vastly lower than the prices that are charged.

What explains this difference is the means we use to finance the cost of developing and introducing the next generation of pharmaceuticals. We turn to drug consumers rather than taxpayers.

While there are pros and cons from this selection, it is an entirely different matter than the cost of a drug already introduced.

WILLIAM S. COMANOR

Los Angeles

The writer is director of the UCLA Research Program on Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy.

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