Monday, June 9, 2014

Medical Innovation Ecosystem

Some alarmists complain that the cost of new, innovative cancer treatments will soon bankrupt the health care system, arguing that we must find a way to limit patients' access to them. When we point out that the new treatments represent only 0.5% (one half of one percent) of health care costs, those people claim that it doesn't matter, because the expense of new treatments is increasing at an increasing rate, and we must do something.

Horsefeathers, I say. The sky is not falling. Instead, the system is working just as it should, exactly as designed. A company innovates, inventing a new treatment and, after years of trials and against tall odds, finally makes a good, healthy profit on a treatment that saves and extends lives. This provides the financial and technological footing upon which that company can further innovate, advancing medical understanding to create an even better treatment, or a new treatment for another disease. The medical innovation ecosystem also includes governments, academia, research hospitals, and more, but the pharmaceutical companies always do the heavy lifting. That's the system we have, and it's working. Let's not mess with it.

Deep in discussion at ASCO
Costs of new treatments may indeed rise, but those new treatments will increasingly keep us out of hospitals and clinics, reducing those costs. Further, we will lead healthier, more productive lives, earning and spending, thereby contributing to the economy. Even more, as innovation extends our lives and improves its quality, we and our loved ones will enjoy more birthdays together, more weddings, graduations, anniversaries, more celebrations of all kinds, and lots more just plain good days. My life is worth it, not only to me but to those who love me. So is yours.

Oh but, the complainers say, there are unethical companies that are not playing fair, reaping excessive profits, or pushing expensive treatments which are no better than those they purport to replace. They imply that all of the pharmaceutical companies behave like that, but of course that is false. Indeed, some companies even promise that all patients who need their treatments will get access to them regardless of insurance status. If there are unscrupulous companies, let us find ways to "encourage" those companies to join with the ethical ones (as a lawyer I have ideas), rather than penalizing all of us patients. We have done nothing wrong and we simply want and deserve the best treatments available.

The patients' mantra is My Life Is Worth It. I wrote about this a few days ago here. We believe, above all, that we patients need a seat at the table wherever alarmists are trying to convince policymakers that the cost of cancer treatments must be reined in at the expense of patients. Here is the petition and here is where you can sign it. If you haven't, please do. Thanks!

Comments please.


  1. Don, would it be okay to repost this on the Mutliple Myeloma FB page? it is great food for thought.
    -Julie Zimmer