A hard reality of drug costs

KEY TAKEAWAY: Even if all prescription drugs were free to patients our health care costs would still be going up in a steep curve.  To reduce health care costs, we need an integrated approach not a universal Medicare system.

According to Harvard Medical School “millions of adults skip medications due to their high costs”.  I agree that too many prescription drugs have costs that in the stratosphere and that drug companies pay their CEO’s too much to cuddle with Wall Street but the fact remains that prescription drugs only count for ten cents of every health care dollar spent.

Our so called journalists have done readers a huge disservice by demonizing drug companies while failing to ignore the real cost drivers of American health care. More than 75 percent of health care expenditures are attributable to diseases that are largely preventable  Let’s look at a few other drivers of healthcare costs:

1ne: While diseases as complicated as cancer are often caused by genetic factors that are out of your control and risk factors that you can change.

In a study published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, researchers led by Dr. Farhad Islami at the American Cancer Society analyzed national cancer data and calculated how much of cancer cases and deaths can be attributed to factors that people can change. These included smoking, exposure to second-hand smoke, being overweight or obese, drinking too much alcohol, eating red and processed meats, eating too few fruits and vegetables, not exercising, exposure to ultraviolet radiation through activities like tanning and six cancer-related infections (including HPV). Among more than 1.5 million cancers in 2014, 42% were traced to these factors, as well as 45% of deaths in that year.

2wo: The medical care costs of obesity in the United States are high. In 2008 dollars, these costs were estimated to be $147 billion. The annual nationwide productive costs of obesity obesity-related absenteeism range between $3.38 billion ($79 per obese individual) and $6.38 billion ($132 per obese individual).

3hree: In 2011, the average annual health spending for individuals with diabetes was $14,093. Two years later, it had risen to $14,999, according to the Healthcare Cost Institute. In contrast, a person without diabetes spent about $10,000 less in medical costs in 2013.

4our:  A study just published in the journal Health Affairs estimates that in 2015 common vaccine-preventable diseases in adults cost the U.S. $9 billion, with 80% of these costs (or $7.1 billion) from those who did not get vaccinated.

5ive: The United States health care system wastes an estimated $375 billion annually in billing and insurance-related paperwork.

6ix: Experts estimate that at least $200 billion is wasted annually on excessive medical testing and treatment. This overly aggressive care also can harm patients.

7even: A study of one million people has found that physical inactivity costs the global economy $67.5 billion a year in health care and productivity losses, but an hour a day of exercise could eliminate most of that.

These statistics should alarm you because we have not done anything to address them within our population.  I am not defending high drug prices, they are a disgrace.  Amgen for example, is sitting on $27 billion in cash and doesn’t know what to do with the money. If we, as a nation, however, are to lower health care costs, we have to address the key fact that Americans would rather take a pill to treat a chronic disease than take preventative measures.

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