Friday, May 25, 2007

Patients allegedly undersupplied with cutting edge medication

A study published by the German federation of the innovative (ie research active) pharmaceutical industry alleges that up to 74% of patients suffering from dementia, and up to 69% of patients suffering from rheumathoid arthritis are denied access to innovative drugs due to cost considerations. Basically insurance companies put pressure on doctors to prescribe cheaper, generic drugs, many of which, according to the research active industry, are plain suboptimal.

Now, one should not be too surprised that the pharmaceutical industry and its for-hire academic researcher (a professor doctor doctor med type guy in Bochum) come to this conclusion.

Assuming that the claims made by the good professor, and the industry that finances him, are correct, one might still wonder whether this isn't further proof that our reliance on market mechanisms to ensure medical innovation is misguided. It seems as if not only the poor in developing countries are unable to access life preserving medication but also your average citizen in a country as rich as Germany. Surely there is something odd about our health care systems' continuing reliance on profit driven drug companies to deliver the needed drugs affordably. I am not suggesting, by the way, that there is something inherently bad about the companies going about their business in terms of maximising returns for their shareholders. What is problematic is that we as a society have shifted most drug R&D responsibility their way. Now we depend on them and find that while this was convenient for awhile, we (as in more and more of us) can't afford their goods anylonger.

No doubt it is time to reconsider how drug R&D is currently being financed.

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