We all saw this problem arising for cancer patients. The day when pharmaceutical companies would charge ridiculously high prices for lifesaving treatments, ones that could offer patients new hope for extending their life expectancy. I know it’s been happening for the last two decades, but it’s starting to get particularly bad now.
The real question has to be: do these well-off pharmaceutical companies really want to find a cure for cancer or are they more concerned about the financial benefits on offer from providing treatments? In all fairness, it’s easy to shift blame onto the makers of drugs but perhaps the NHS are trying to play hardball and negotiate an unreasonable deal? Who knows what to believe anymore?
Though remarkable, cancer treatments are extremely costly. One drug (Kadcyla), that could lengthen the lives of some women with advanced breast cancer, was recently rejected for NHS use because it’s too costly. It was priced at a whooping £90,000 per patient. Yes you heard right – £90,000. No wonder it’s too expensive to recommend for general use in the health service.
The NHS financial watchdog was quick to enter into a war of words with manufacturers of the drug. And remember, this was only one of the most expensive cancer drugs on the market. I dread to think how much the other treatments cost.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said: “At such a high price, Kadcyla makes it impossible to recommend for widespread use in the health service.” When such a drug can extend the lives of suffering patients by a whole 6 months, isn’t it worth putting these monetary wars to one side?
Eventually, some of these huge pharmaceutical companies do propose discounts to the full price, so they’re not entirely greedy.
They’re sticking by their argument that drugs are very expensive because the science behind drug discovery is complicated. According to them, it’s getting harder by the day. From a scientific viewpoint, taking a drug from initial discovery to market is akin to putting a man on the moon.
Basically, biology is complex and they haven’t figured everything out yet. There is some truth in that argument because to adapt, moderate or cure an illness using small organic molecules is no easy feat. But then how have they been able to do it successfully in the past?
In layman’s terms, maybe they’ve made all the easy drugs and can’t crack the more difficult ones, so they’re pumping more money and research into the experiments until they find the answers. How much extra money will be needed for all of this? Let’s hope for some human ingenuity and good luck for future drug discoveries.
Anyhow, do pharmaceutical companies really expect the NHS to recommend overpriced treatments? Maybe they’re just looking for a big pay out before allowing the NHS to pay a more reasonable subsidised price for the drug? Or maybe the drugs really are that expensive, in which case it seems almost pointless to make them.