I’m sure many of you remember the changes in healthcare for 2016. The plague of ever rising prescription drug prices is apparently just as frustrating for doctors as well, and not just for the patients who needs those drugs. An admirable initiative by the American College of Physicians (ACP) has issued a formal request to the U.S. government, asking the representatives to join their efforts of putting a halt to the spiraling prices of drugs and health care costs. The request was publicized last Monday via a position paper expressing the view of ACP (the Annals of Internal Medicine), along with several recommendations for the government on what could be done for a better central regulation of prescription drug costs.
Why Culling the Rise of Prescription Drug Prices Is Important
According to the most up to date Harvard study on consumer patterns for prescription drugs, American citizens are taking more prescription drugs than ever before. The use of prescription drugs has increased over the last decade, and is predicted to rise even further in the next one. Today, about 60 percent of all citizens take prescription drugs regularly. This is in part an effect of better medical prevention measures and better screening of diseases, and an effect of the population being confronted with modern lifestyle diseases which used to affect our people in lesser degree. Therefore, the use of more prescription drugs can be viewed as both a bad thing (more diseases) and a good thing (more health care, not necessarily more diseases) at the same time.
But the most important points which derives from this increased use of meds is that prescription drug prices are also rising in spite of their increased demand and automatized production, actively defying theoretical economy laws. When a product is in greater demand and its production becomes standardized, the predictable trend would be to downsize its costs and make it more readily available to the people who need it. This is especially mandatory when we are talking about a ‘product’ which saves lives, such as medical supplies, drugs and so on. Since most of the population is dependent on prescription drugs and in need on more medical care than ever before, cutting down on health care costs should be a priority for the government.
The American College of Physicians, through the paper-manifest published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, proposes a coordinated and conscious effort for reducing prescription drug prices on behalf of doctors and patients alike. Not only that doctors should stand for their patients and do anything in their power to promote their health (including, thus, making some lobby for fairer prices), but if the costs of health care continue to spiral out of control this hinders with the medical process itself. If a doctor prescribes a consistent treatment which isn’t really affordable, paired with all other treatments for parallel health issues which the average patient must usually cope with, this means that the prescribed treatments will be followed inconsistently, if followed at all. The Harvard study points out that many patients are taking 5 drugs or more per day. This need cannot be sustained efficiently if prices for prescription drugs are so high (and keep on rising).
The Measures Proposed by the American College of Physicians
The ACP paper points out that the United States are the only member country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development which doesn’t have a set of regulatory measures for keeping the prices of prescription drugs under control. Therefore, the ACP proposes several sets of detailed measures through which the U.S. government could handle the situation better, and with long-term sustainability. Here are just a few of them:
- Drug makers and producers should be required to fully disclose the costs of producing each medication, including discounts obtained via government-funded research and so on;
- Medicare should be allowed to renegotiate prices of contracts with drug-makers, and also to be allowed to re-import medication from Canada or similar countries where prices of prescription drugs are lower for certain products;
- Taking targeted measures against insurers who are striving to restrict access to certain drugs in order to save money (and end up hurting patients in the process);
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study points out that patient co-pays are rising much faster than their incomes. It’s clear that something should be done to control how expensive prescription drugs have become, and if the measures proposed by the ACP aren’t the perfect answer, a better adapted one should be found faster. The ACP has started the conversation, and the government should listen to experts from all branches of the drug distribution process, in order to find a feasible solution to the problem of prescription drug prices.