Time and again, the dangerous idiots of healthcare reform claim that there's no difference between so-called "me-too" drugs, and that they're simply a way for drug companies to turn a quick profit. The New York Times,in an editorial, claimed that "the nation is wasting billions of dollars on heavily marketed drugs that have never proved themselves in head-to-head competition against cheaper competitors." Wrong.
A recent op-ed in the New York Times, (Why Drugs Cost So Much, NYT, January 14, 2015) by Peter Bach is only the latest in a series of such bandwagon drivel – and he should know better.
The truth is that despite the assertions in and by the New York Times, different drugs are indeed different, even if you describe them as "me-too" medications. Likewise, even though every brand of store-bought peanut butter contains peanuts, oil, sugar, and salt, no one would argue that Skippy and JIF taste exactly the same.
Time and again, different medicines have proved themselves where it counts - in the bodies and biochemistries of patients. No two patients are alike, and the more options available, the more likely doctors are to find what works best for each patient. A few points to consider:
* When patients have access to more effective medications, their overall health improves, even as their overall medical expenses go down. That, in turn, reduces national health-care spending and boosts the economy. Value must be measured in patient outcomes.
* Healthcare innovation saves lives, saves money, promotes economic growth, and provides hope for hundreds of millions of people (both patients and care-givers) in the United States and around the world.
* If we do not support the development of new medicines through timely licensing and fair pricing, innovation will be stopped in its tracks – and that is not an acceptable public health outcome.
* Regulators can be partners in innovation three ways: Through robust oversight, through active collaboration, and, most importantly, by being an innovation enabler.
The deviation between value and pricing in a distinction with a difference – and while both are important, it is value that’s the higher priority since driving patient outcomes is the higher calling (and better long-term economic investment).
After all, as Yale economist William Nordhaus has written, "The social productivity of health care spending might be many times that of other spending.”
Luckily, America's doctors, drug researchers and patients are smarter than that. Just like there aren't any "me-too" patients, there aren't any "me-too" drugs. And if cars and peanut butter are going to be personalized, then medicine is too important not to be.