New medicines lower health-care costs

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A recent CT Mirror article decries the “eye-popping prices” of certain medications. Some drugs, like the breakthrough cures for hepatitis C, are certainly expensive. But many new medicines represent an upfront, one-time cost to rid patients of vicious diseases that would ultimately cost the healthcare system far more in the long run.

The cost of hepatitis C medicines dwarf the costs of the alternatives—chronic hospitalizations and liver transplants, at $500,000 or more. And, as more and more hepatitis C medicines have come on the market, the cost of each has declined dramatically.

Many “costly” new medicines, like those that cure hepatitis C or have made HIV a manageable condition and not a death sentence, have put people in the prime of life back in the workforce, their economic contributions more than offsetting the costs of the medicines. Innovative medicines cost billions to create. Government intervention in drug pricing will disincentivize research and development. New medicine research and development is the way out, not the cause, of spiraling health-care costs. Without better medicines, total health-care costs will rise.

Finally, although the seemingly high cost of a few innovative medicines has attracted much attention, medicines represent only about 10% of American health-care costs, a figure that has remained strikingly stable, if not declined, over the past 50 years.

Paul Pescatello is an advocate for biotech and biopharma research  and development as chair of the Connecticut Bioscience Growth Council.

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