Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Drug Costs, Dialysis

It's been a while since I've written about the Science-Based Medicine site. Today Harriet Hall wrote about the dilemma of hyper-expensive new medications, some of which have little real-world efficacy, yet cost more than most people make in a year. They get marketed as if they are effective, though, and people ask for them and we end up with higher costs than are needed.

Some, like the treatments for hepatitis C, are fully effective, yet cost close to $100,00 per patient. As Hall put it,

If everyone in the US with hepatitis C virus were treated, it would cost $331 billion, more than the total drug spending in 2013. For Medicare, treating one patient with Harvoni costs as much as the total annual health care costs for 29 enrollees.
Later in the article, she moved on to the question of dialysis, which reminded me that John Oliver recently did a great segment on that topic. Dialysis is the only example of fully socialized medicine in the U.S., thanks to Richard Nixon. But it's not anything like a cure, since it only does 10 percent of the job that your kidneys do, and causes multiple bad side effects. (Not to mention taking up a bunch of your time.) And if you're over 75, it won't extend your life more than normal renal care. Not to mention the scammy aspects of dialysis centers, as John Oliver describes.

Jumping back to the original topic of expensive new drug, economist Dean Baker has a lot to say about drug patents and other ways we could organize the work that goes into developing new treatments without these kinds of costs.

No solutions from me today, just a lot to think about.

No comments: