Monday, April 29, 2013

The Medical Profession Tells It Like It is on the High Cost of Cancer Treatment Drugs

Finally Some Physicians Have Reached Their Limit

This Forum has commented several times on the high cost of treatment of various diseases.  And lo and behold, even doctors are now getting the message. 

Doctors Denounce Cancer Drug Prices of $100,000 a Year

Prices for cancer drugs have been part of the debate over health care costs for several years — and recently led to a public protest from doctors at a major cancer center in New York. But the decision by so many specialists, from more than 15 countries on five continents, to join the effort is a sign that doctors, who are on the front lines of caring for patients, are now taking a more active role in resisting high prices. In this case, some of the specialists even include researchers with close ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
The doctors and researchers, who specialize in the potentially deadly blood cancer known as chronic myeloid leukemia, contend in a commentary published online by a medical journal Thursday that the prices of drugs used to treat that disease are astronomical, unsustainable and perhaps even immoral.

This is not totally the fault of drug companies who are doing what any other profit maximizing business does in a free economy, and they are not alone

Novartis argues that few patients actually pay the full cost of the drug and that prices reflect the high cost of research and the value of a drug to patients.
Gleevec entered the market in 2001 at a price of about $30,000 a year in the United States, the doctors wrote. Since then, the price has tripled, it said, even as Gleevec has faced competition from five newer drugs. And those drugs are even more expensive.

 but it is totally the fault of the system.

And the solution is simple. Since the Federal government pays for a large portion of pharmaceuticals in this country (Medicare, Medicaid, Federal Employees, Armed Service personnel etc) the research for new drugs should be totally funded by the Feds.  Then once a drug is approved its manufacture can be made available with no patent protection needed.  And the government could recoup some of its costs by licensing the drugs to foreign countries.

What would this cost?  Well, if one factors in the savings by bringing down the cost of drugs purchased by the Feds by 70-90%,  the answer is, not very much.  Through high drug costs the Feds are already paying a large amount of the R & D costs for new drugs.

And the drug companies, who say they must charge high prices to recover research costs, well let’s call them on this.  Under this program, which is what any Econ 101 course would conclude is the answer the drug companies no longer have any risk.  But methinks they would not go along, for all their complaining they like the profits too much. 

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