The true value of a life is not about the pharmaceutical costs – Financial Times

Drug pricing should be re-thought & Government should commit more according to John Kay

lifeA very interesting article in the Financial Times written by a well-known economist, John Kay, about life.

His conclusion: “Perhaps the greatest challenges in modern healthcare are not those of meeting the spiralling cost of advanced medical technologies. They lie in accepting that we are all going to die, and learning to do so with dignity.”

The business model of the pharma industry is based on drugs against chronic diseases (mass markets). Huge volumes of pills at moderate prices = covering the expenditure involved in drug development and clinical trials + good profits. However, less and less drugs fit that model, especially with the emergence of personalized medicine (drugs tailored to the specific DNA profile of each patient).

John Kay is talking a lot about Sovaldi (an HCV drug marketed by Gilead) and its very high price point. Personally, I think that despite the high price, this drug will cure people and it’s worth the spend. On the contrary, cancer drugs only prolong life without curing and, maybe, without a decent quality of life for the patient (especially at the end), and they have extremely high price tags. Another example: antibiotics. They have low price tag and they cure and very often save the lives of people.

As quoted by John Kay: “Perhaps governments should finance the payment of a national licence fee for drugs, with supplies then made available at a price close to production cost. A rising proportion of medical expenditure is now devoted to prolonging the lives of the very old and the terminally ill. The costs of this are potentially unlimited.”

I expect a real rethink of the whole drug pricing system. We should pay for the outcomes, for the real value delivered to the patients and the healthcare system.

FT article    Link to the article on John Kay website

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