Argument to invest more in medicines is hard to swallow

Ideal system would boost innovation and cut costs in all health care sectors

The essay by Jean-François Formela and John Stanford (“To spend less on health care, invest more in medicines,” Ideas, April 10), which first appeared in STAT News, is a vivid example of the fractious interface between health care and capitalism. The authors argue that “the conventional wisdom that we need to reduce spending on prescription drugs is all wrong.” As venture capitalists, their interests are focused on margins and profit returns, or the supply side of economics, not the demand side. While the policy improvements they offer to reduce health care costs deserve attention, to suggest that the “perpetual war on biopharmaceuticals” is unwarranted or misdirected ignores the many examples of price gouging, such as treatments for diabetes and asthma, as well as the burden placed on consumers paying the high prices.

The authors contend that “in an ideal health care system, we’d spend more on drugs, not less.” Sadly, our health care system is not ideal. If it were, we would follow the prescriptions of the authors for reducing costs in all health care sectors and spend more for innovations in biopharmaceuticals while still lowering drug prices. That would benefit the consumer as well as venture capitalists

dr Dean R. Wasserman

Plymouth

There’s a lot of venture capitalists aren’t telling you in making their case

Jean-François Formela and John Stanford implore US society not to reduce spending on prescription drugs and instead to invest more in innovative medicine with the promise that it will reduce future health care expenditures. While new therapeutics may truly change the course of diseases, the authors do not mention that Big Pharma spends more than twice as much on corporate overhead and advertising as it does on research and development, or that a great deal of this research is funded by our taxes.

Big Pharma continues to successfully lobby against price regulations, while the rest of the world pays less for medicines. The industry is adept at extending patents significantly longer than originally intended, and at paying generic companies not to sell at lower prices.

Investing in medical innovation and cutting costs now are not mutually exclusive, venture capitalist profits aside.

dr Bruce L Ring

North Easton

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