For those of us that need to take prescription drugs the skyrocketing costs of them is very burdensome. Of course, those costs are only one of the problems with our medical system in the U.S. To examine all those issues and possible fixes would take many pages, so I will limit myself here to just drug costs.
A few months ago a small pharmaceutical company raised the price of one of its drugs by 1700%. That ridiculous increase was not due to new onerous regulations, nor due to new research and development costs, but only because the could do it and get away with it. The rapid rise in prescription drug costs is one of the causes of escalating insurance premiums. It is also a cause of the frequent changes that insurance companies make in their formularies.
Pharmaceutical companies site three factors for the rising costs and as a reason that a ten-year protection is needed before a generic drug can be marketed. The factors are the very high cost to develop new drugs, the extensive time frame and testing requirements before the FDA will approve a drug for sale, and of course the high risk of exorbitant legal actions.
The potential legal action is probably the easiest to fix. Pass tort reform legislation. Not likely to happen anytime soon though as a very high percentage of our legislators are lawyers, many still taking money out of law firms. The odds of meaningful tort reform is probably akin to term limits and putting themselves into the SS and Medicare systems. Slim and none and Slim is out-of-town as the old western saying goes.
Will the FDA loosen the onerous requirements to get a new drug approved? Not likely. It has more to do with the FDA bureaucracy protecting itself than it does with protecting the public. History has shown that once a bureaucracy is firmly entrenched it never agrees to self-limit or self-destruct.
Yes, the R & D costs are high. Chemists don’t come cheap, nor do research labs. But, having said that one still must wonder why drugs cost so much less in Canada, Panama, and dozens of other countries than in the U.S.
So, take generics you say? Well, not all drugs have a generic and not all people can take a generic. Yes, the active ingredient (s) in the generic is supposed to be the same as the original prescription product. But, many people are allergic to the fillers, binders, and/or coatings used in many generics so taking them can be an exercise similar to Russian Roulette with the losers going to the ER or even the morgue.
However, the reality is that if the pharmaceutical industry doesn’t rein itself in soon, it will be done for them. There is a long history of government, under pressure from the citizenry, stepping in to break up or regulate companies and industries that fail to do so themselves.
It is unlikely that any heavy hitter in a pharmaceutical company is going to read this piece, nor would they take any action if they did. The only hope I see is if enough people put enough pressure on their legislators to force a change. Do you see a better fix?