hak kah / Flickr surgery...
hak kah / Flickr

On April 10 in the year of our Lord, 2018, analysts at Goldman Sachs allegedly released a report titled “The Genome Revolution.” According to numerous news reports, the report delved into a pretty awkward subject—cures.

“The potential to deliver ‘one shot cures’ is one of the most attractive aspects of gene therapy, genetically-engineered cell therapy and gene editing. However, such treatments offer a very different outlook with regard to recurring revenue versus chronic therapies,” analyst Salveen Richter wrote in the note to clients Tuesday. “While this proposition carries tremendous value for patients and society, it could represent a challenge for genome medicine developers looking for sustained cash flow.”

It isn’t “good business,” to be absolutely frank. We all know it isn’t. There are entire fringe worlds of conspiracy that continue to exist based on this one single kernel of truth. Why is this news now? Because science and medicine are getting very close to big and meaningful breakthroughs on diseases and maladies that were once only somewhat treatable with very expensive routines of medications. Gene therapy breakthroughs have been a big part of this, with the FDA approving promising gene therapy trials, and even more exciting results coming in from around the world. But as CNBC reports, solving serious problems for the public doesn’t mean you get to keep buying mega-yachts. Goldman Sachs analyst Salveen Richter has some bad news for our current “free market” system:

Richter cited Gilead Sciences’ treatments for hepatitis C, which achieved cure rates of more than 90 percent. The company’s U.S. sales for these hepatitis C treatments peaked at $12.5 billion in 2015, but have been falling ever since. Goldman estimates the U.S. sales for these treatments will be less than $4 billion this year, according to a table in the report.

“GILD is a case in point, where the success of its hepatitis C franchise has gradually exhausted the available pool of treatable patients,” the analyst wrote. “In the case of infectious diseases such as hepatitis C, curing existing patients also decreases the number of carriers able to transmit the virus to new patients, thus the incident pool also declines … Where an incident pool remains stable (eg, in cancer) the potential for a cure poses less risk to the sustainability of a franchise.”

The fact of the matter is that private industry spends a lot of money on scientific research because it’s extraordinarily profitable. But, governments spend money on scientific research as well, and some political parties believe that one of the many things our government should help to do, besides funding the arts and education, is to foster scientific research and innovation. Our current Republican-led government does not believe in that, having already laid out massive cuts to scientific research. They believe that private interests can innovate the best way possible to the best outcomes for the most people.

Most of us know that there is a better chance of Santa Claus showing up at our home and flying us to the moon than private industry doing what’s right for the world over what’s right for the bottom line of private industry.

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