Dead people are very cost efficient. They have no need for costly hospital procedures, pharmaceuticals, or home care. On the other side of the pharmacoeconomic spectrum are people who suffer non-fatal medical events like a heart attack or stroke — and survive due to every kind of help our health care system can provide. Such interventions are often both extensive and extended. But we are compassionate and civilized and value life. Individually and collectively we choose and support expensive care over expedient demise. That’s why it’s so urgent that we recognize the exigent issues surrounding our nation’s ill-placed focus on acute care while chronic care issues remain precariously in the background — in terms of both policy and press coverage.
The recent IDEAL study is only the most recent case-in-point. After a slamma JAMA editorial extolling the findings that Lipitor (80mg) provides incremental reductions in multiple endpoints including non-fatal heart attacks (a whopping 17% decrease in fatalities) and cardiovascular events in high-risk patients compared to simvastatin (20/40 mg) — the mainstream press played down the whole study as only marginally significant. Well, life is lived between such margins — and when it comes to CVD, those margins are pretty wide. In 2005, $393.5 billion was spent on CVD — nearly twice the amount spent on cancer care. Between 1970 and 1990 life expectancy in the US rose an astounding 6.2 years — due largely to new therapies for dealing with CVD.
Today we have the opportunity to further extend our ability not only to live but also to thrive at a high level of performance. And the impact on our health care system — not to mention our society will change the world … but only if we pay attention.