Zeke Emanuel's Final Solution For Drug Prices

  • by: |
  • 09/10/2015
In his NYT oped "The Solution to Drug Prices" Zeke Emanuel claims price controls are a good thing as long as they are connected to the value of the drug.  I assume that he thinks longer life and reduced health care spending are measures of value. 

He thinks Australia and Switzerland are good examples of how to do price controls right. 

In fact, there are several studies of both pricing systems.  In Australia life expectancy increased by 11 months for people who had access to new drugs faster.  mean age at death increased more for diseases with larger increases in mean drug vintage.  Life expectancy for people who had older medicines didn't budge.In  Australia‚Äôs Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee recommended only  two of twenty-six drugs  with a cost per life-year saved greater than $57,000. Only one of twenty-six submissions with a cost per life-year saved less than $32,000 was rejected. Australia ranked 18th out of 20 comparable OECD countries in access to new medicines, with cancer patients waiting over two years after a drug is approved

In Switzerland a study concluded that 17000 life years were gained in 2012 due to the kind of cancer drugs Emanuel claims are NOT cost-effective.  In fact the cost per life-year before age 75 gained from cancer drugs was $21228.  Moreover, the study found that by delaying access to these medicines as part of the price control program, Swiss cancer patients died sooner than they had to.  Finally, another study concluded that Swiss heart patients  who  used  newer  cardiovascular  drugs  in 2003 lived longer than  people  who used older cardiovascular drugs. (Meanwhile, in the US generic versions of patent medicines are less expensve than the price controlled brand products in Europe.)

Americans with heart disease and cancer live longer than patients in other countries even though many spend more on on these diseases.  The price controls Emanuel pushes would save less than .5 percent of total US health spending.  They would drive up total costs and make life shorter and more painful for millions.



Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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