"the panel was strongly influenced by the fact that letrozole, made by Novartis, goes off-patent in 2011."
Translation: Who cares if letrozole prevents breast cancer if a corporate monopoly won't have the chance to exploit for ridiculous profits?
Hopefully this statement was issued by a disgruntled colleague and the Novartis bottom line doesn't really determine NIH trial funding decisions. Did Novartis threaten to drop their $30M/free drug contribution to the US government's $55M investment? Why should Novartis' interests be the only priority here? Once the drug is off-patent, it would available for generic production and even more accessible to patients. Must we always look for financial "returns" to justify investment in medical research? Isn't improving human health enough of a payback? Maybe it's about time North American governments reclaim some capital from the private sector to support publicly-funded research that benefits human beings instead of accountants.