Wednesday, October 24, 2012

European drug pricing

I almost titled this post 'European Drug Dealing' but thought it might have some bad connotations as I am not that kind of girl. Creative drug pricing is flourishing in Europe due financially strapped health care systems. These European countries are forcing drug companies to compromise their pricing structure. Hmmm.... so guess who still pays those prices? The US.

"Many of today's complicated pricing arrangements have their origins in pioneering work by Britain's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which was set up in 1999 to systematically assess the cost-effectiveness of new drugs.

Its refusal to accept some pricey products has angered patients, and the tough line has forced drugmakers to find novel ways to make medicines affordable - either by offering discounts or making payment conditional on measurable benefits.

It is an approach now being adopted from Spain to Poland, resulting in a patchwork of schemes that can cause frustration among doctors struggling to assess the true cost of treatments."

I strongly believe that drugs needed to be assessed for their cost effectiveness but not in the sense that they should be with held from patients because of their cost but instead so that drug companies restructure their pricing costs. Yes I understand research is expensive but the pharmaceutical industry still offers incredible hiring packages and perks to employees (I have  friend who just got a job in biotech and her salary and perks are amazing in today's standards - they are reminiscent of the free spending 1990's.) But I digress.

Drug pricing should  not be the problem of the patients or the insurance companies or state run medical organizations. Pricing should be the problem for the manufacturer.

""The 10,000-foot view is that we just follow the science and do what's right for patients, and then figure out a commercial model that can work," Hal Barron, head of global product development, said in a recent interview."

If the science takes them to the right direction for the patient,  the drug companies also need to figure out how to make it commercially viable and accept that there need to be price ceilings for drugs. Something that costs $10,000/month, even though it might be lifesaving, is out of line. 

I have two recent examples where I got brand name drugs and was appalled at all the packaging and design that went into them. My brand name Femara came in a little bottle which a fancy label and the bottle was the exact color of the pills. I am sure there were several marketing programs done to figure out what color the pill and bottle and label should be. That's not necessary. Just give us plain pills that we can distinguish from our other  pills in a regular prescription bottle and we will be happy.

This summer I was switched to Butrans pain patch which provide a week relief from pain. It came with a DVD with a 20 minute video on how and where to apply the patch - on your skin near your collar bone - they could have done it with a little diagram. Each months' supply consists of a 6"x6"x1" cardboard box which contains the four patches, a giant folder of discard packets, and 1/4" think folded up instruction/side effect sheet. Why can't they send me 12 patches with one folder of discard packets and one instruction/side effect sheet for three months instead of three big boxes? Packaging!

Tools to manufacturers in setting pricing are packaging, image, product, and more. Each product has an image they want to project and it is defined by pricing, packaging, promotion. Drug manufacturers do this as well as most other manufacturers. I don't think they need to waste money on that. They should focus their efforts on putting the products out as quickly as possible with the lowest possible costs.

So now we have an entire continent forcing drug companies to make deals to sell their products. We need some of that here. More change is needed in the health care system to change problems such as this one of drug pricing.

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