Ac­cess to drugs a costly dilemma

Kapi-Mana News - - CONVERSATIONS - GOR­DON CAMP­BELL

‘‘Given the ris­ing curve of de­mand, the fund­ing in­crease for Phar­mac in this year’s Bud­get looks like a drop in the bucket. ’’

de­mands for fru­gal­ity on the other. Given the ris­ing curve of de­mand, the fund­ing in­crease for Phar­mac in this year’s Bud­get looks like a drop in the bucket. Also, it doesn’t help Phar­mac’s abil­ity to make co­her­ent de­ci­sions that the test re­sults for the new drugs are still pour­ing in.

Should these ‘bi­o­logic’ drugs be used as first re­sponse treat­ments in iso­la­tion, or should they be used in tan­dem with other drugs, later in the ill­ness cy­cle?

And which pa­tients are likely to de­rive most ben­e­fit from them?

As things stand, and to re­peat ... peo­ple with ad­vanced skin can­cer now qual­ify for state fund­ing for these drugs, while lung can­cer pa­tients cur­rently do not.

No good med­i­cal rea­son ex­ists for that dis­tinc­tion, only the po­lit­i­cal de­sire to limit the cost im­pli­ca­tions for the health bud­get, given our age­ing pop­u­la­tion.

In fu­ture, this sit­u­a­tion looks like be­com­ing a ma­jor prob­lem for gov­ern­ments of the left and right. Drug com­pa­nies ar­gue that the prod­ucts they pro­vide are in the pub­lic in­ter­est. In practice, the main in­ter­est they seem to demon­strate is one of test­ing the price lim­its of what­ever the pub­lic – and its elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives – will bear.

For ev­ery year a can­cer drug added to a US pa­tient’s life in 1995, the cost was $US54,100. That cost had reached $US207,000 in 2013. Plainly, the cost of buy­ing one more year of life from the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies is ris­ing far faster than the in­fla­tion rate – and the politi­cians will need to ad­dress the fund­ing im­pli­ca­tions for Phar­mac.

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