Access to drugs a costly dilemma
‘‘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.