Putting drug prices in the spotlight misses the big picture

  • Despite the media’s attention to high drug prices our national healthcare costs are going to continue to climb rapidly.
  • Spending on ambulatory care, which includes ER and outpatient hospital services, also played a role in increased overall costs. Annual spending on ambulatory care swelled from $381.5 billion in 1996 to $706.4 billion in 2013. This increase, about $324 billion, was higher than any of the other five types of care analyzed.
  • A survey revealed that only 20.6 percent of people met the total recommended amounts of exercise — about 23 percent of all surveyed men and 18 percent of surveyed women.
  • Medical costs linked to obesity were estimated to be $147 billion in 2008. Annual medical costs for people who were obese were $1,429 higher than those for people of normal weight in 2006.

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What’s three more months of life worth?

  • The cost of new anti-cancer drugs increased more than fivefold from 2006 to 2015.
  • Anticancer medications account for the lion’s share of global drug spending, and the average price per month of these drugs is known to have more than doubled in recent years
  • Cost is not connected with benefit, and cost is going up quickly, and benefit is highly variable.
  • ASCO and other groups are supporting efforts to make cancer drug costs relate to their effectiveness.

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Common sense in the drug pricing debate

High drug prices are largely blamed on the pharmaceutical companies, but before we can have a common sense debate we need to look at overall health care costs.  In 2013 the U.S. spent 17.1% of its total GDP on healthcare, 50% more than the second highest spending country, France (11.6%). In 2014, the U.S. spent $2.6 trillion (a 5.0% increase from 2013) on personal health care expenditures, in 2015 the U.S. spent $3.2 trillion, which is about 17.8%. Prescription drugs account for only $.10-$.12 of every healthcare dollar spent. Even if all prescription drugs were free our healthcare costs would still be increasing. Continue reading

Truths and fiction within the drug market

  • Drugs are more expensive in America than anywhere else.
  • The president’s plan, which he called the “most sweeping action in history to lower the price of prescription drugs”, lacks potency.
  • The price of drugs is based on what the market will bear.
  • The argument that  nine out of 10 big pharmaceutical companies spend more on marketing than on research is flawed as most of this marketing money is directed at the physicians who do the prescribing, rather than consumers and includes everything from medical journals to expenses for sales people.

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mHealth: The next Theranos?

  • The Journal of Medical Internet Research says “Although mHealth is growing in popularity, the evidence for efficacy is still limited,” wrote the study’s corresponding author, David Novillo-Ortiz, MLIS, MSc, PhD.
  • “More than 100,000 (health) applications are now available in the leading app stores, and the assortment is constantly growing,” says a BAEK study that was discussed at the congress. “But only a fraction of the programs are certified as medical products.”
  • John Torous, MD, a researcher and psychiatry resident at Harvard University, said “We have little evidence about the risks or benefits of smartphone use in clinical care,”
  • “The problem with these apps is they’re so new and novel; it’s probably going to be hard establishing a standard of care, or what a reasonable doctor would, and would not do when using these products,” says Nathan Cortez, a professor and associate dean for research at SMU Dedman School of Law.

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Branded drug makers made billions while blocking generics

  • Makers of brand-name drugs called out by the Trump administration for potentially stalling generic competition have hiked their prices by double-digit percentages since 2012 and cost Medicare and Medicaid nearly $12 billion in 2016, a Kaiser Health News analysis has found.
  • The analysis shows that drug companies that may have engaged in what FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called “shenanigans” to delay the entrance of cheaper competitors onto the market have indeed raised prices and cost taxpayers more money over time.
  • A KHN analysis found that 47 of the drugs cost Medicare and Medicaid almost $12 billion in 2016.

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