An interesting article from Technology Review about Novartis's ability to transform the treatment of a mundane --if ugly-- disease, Onychomycosis into a multimillion profit venture. Here's an excerpt of the article:
No smirking please. Onychomycosis is an ugly fungal infection afflicting the toes of more than 35 million Americans. On occasion, it can be excruciatingly painful. More commonly, however, the disease turns toenails into unappetizing strips of calcified decay. Yech.
But what makes onychomycosis so infectiously intriguing is not its tendency to attack toenails while leaving fingernails untouched, nor its stubbornness in taking root in nail beds. No, what truly makes this parasite provocative is its profitability. In barely seven years, treating onychomycosis has grown into a business worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually for Novartis, one of the world’s largest pharma firms. Millions of people have paid roughly $1,000—more than $100 per infected toe—for pills made by Novartis that rid them of the evil fungus causing this unappealing condition. That’s real money.
The article goes on to state that it wasn't the efficacy of the drug that made it a success, but its marketing to the right people. Viagra, step aside.