Sunday, March 16, 2008

Two Takes on Reining in Health Care Costs

In the U.S. doctors are cutting the price of medicine by reducing the doses that they offer patients. This tactic is understandable because some medicines cost several hundred thousand dollars per year.

In Thailand, the health ministry is recommending that the government ignore patents.

Zamiska, Nicholas. 2008. "Thai Ministry to Recommend Ignoring Patents on Cancer Drugs." Wall Street Journal (11 March): p. A 16.

"Thailand's new health minister announced that he would urge the Thai government to continue to ignore patents on several cancer drugs, disappointing big pharmaceutical companies that had hoped Bangkok might roll back a policy of overriding patents in the name of public health."

"Ever since a bloodless military coup in Thailand in September 2006, the military-installed government had been battling big pharmaceutical companies, threatening to sidestep their patents on drugs for AIDS and other diseases if they didn't drop the price of their medications. The Thai government argued that since the country's poor population couldn't afford the lifesaving drugs, and the government didn't have sufficient funds to cover their cost, drug companies should put public health before profit and cut the cost of the medications."

Pollack, Andrew. 2008. "Cutting Dosage of Costly Drug Spurs a Debate." New York Times (16 March).

"Cerezyme, used to treat a rare inherited enzyme deficiency called Gaucher disease, costs $300,000 a year. Sales of Cerezyme totaled $1.1 billion last year, making it a blockbuster by industry standards."

"Shauna Mangum, of Farmington, N.M., began treatment in 2000, at a cost of more than $400,000 a year. The next year, the premiums for everyone in her insurance pool went up by $180 a month."

Doctors are considering cutting the dosage to save money, setting off a strong debate about the practice.


Anonymous said...

Some people say - food and energy are getting more and more expensive. That's correct, but there were periods when these two items were growing at lower rate than that for core CPI. The price index for medical care has been growing at the same high rate since its introduction in 1980. This is a strong and practically linear growth without any signs of deceleration.

Kevin Carson said...

"In Thailand, the health ministry is recommending that the government ignore patents."

Finally, a country adopting real free market reforms.