Will new drug partnerships force a fresh take on costs?

There's nothing new about partnering in drug development. It's been going on for years. But the mantra on collaboration is becoming an article of faith these days, as a new analysis piece from Reuters helps illustrate.

The trend story makes a few interesting points worth consideration. One of the hottest arenas for collaboration is in cancer treatments, which Bristol-Myers Squibb and Roche recently highlighted with their announced partnership on Yervoy and the experimental but highly promising vemurafenib for melanoma. Quite reasonably, if one drug can help delay disease progression and death in advanced cases, hitting the same cancer from different angles will work even better. And eventually, we could reach the point where cancer starts to look more like chronic illnesses.

But John LaMattina, former Pfizer research chief and currently a partner at PureTech Ventures, notes that those solutions raise some thorny issues. One of the reasons cancer has become the hottest disease in drug development is because these new therapeutics often cost around six figures. But can that continue with a new generation of cocktail therapies?

"If you convert cancer to a chronic disease, and you've got now people living 10, 20, 30 years with cancer but they're on a polypharmacy, there's no way you can have them with three drugs that each cost $80,000 a year," he says.

Another intriguing point: As more biopharma companies collaborate, you can expect to see more partners start to squabble about conflicts, such as the lawsuit Amylin fired against Eli Lilly after Lilly paired up with Boehringer on rival diabetes drugs.

Bottom line: The more biopharma couples you see at the altar of collaboration, the more breakups and altercations you can expect down the road. So don't jump in without careful consideration.

- here's the analysis from Reuters