Pharmaceuticals Reduce Cost of Disease

There is growing concern over the cost to health care of pharmaceutical drugs. A new study says that these costs can be offset by their benefits in reducing productivity. What else can be done to reduce costs?
Health (Photo credit: Tax Credits)
Health care costs consume over 40 percent of provincial government spending. Spending on pharmaceuticals has been cited as a major cost contributor. But are pharmaceuticals making a difference? Are they worth the cost?
The Conference Board of Canada recently published a new study examining six classes of drugs for their health and societal benefit-cost ratios. They looked at the current situation and potential long-term benefits.
The classes of drugs comprise those that are commonly used to treat risk factor to cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking), asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Specifically they included ACE inhibitors, Statins, Biguanides, Inhaled steroids, Biologic response modifiers and pharmaceutical smoking cessation programs.
The report focused on captures the five year direct impact of health care costs, which includes physicians, hospitals, drugs and other health related spending for these diseases. It also factored in other societal costs related to short- or long-term disability, early mortality and reductions in on-the-job productivity caused by disease.
The picture that emerges is that on a treatment-by-treatment basis the combined health and societal benefits outweigh the additional cost of treatment for the four of six classes of drugs. Treatment for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and asthma were seen as very success. Because some of the drugs are new in the classes, projections to 2030 were made. In this analysis all drug classes were shown as beneficial.

What the report seems to show is that effective drugs, despite their costs, do reduce additional health care cost by preventing or treating disease. They also allow patients to be socially productive. Therefore when looked at holistically, they have a positive contribution to society.

I can certainly vouch for that. My ACE inhibitor and asthma medications (plus a handful of others) have kept me alive and productive. A fact that my wife, kids, friends love. I’m sure my employers and government taxman all appreciate it too.
The report focuses on the tradition elements of health care – drugs, acute and long-term care facilities, medical personnel. The other contributors to good health are not mentioned perhaps because they are harder to measure or evaluate. Improved nutrition and exercise are known elements in a holistic approach to your health.
From this report we know that drugs can significantly contribute to reduction of health and societal costs from disease. Imagine how much further those costs could be driven down if we combined the medical treatment programs with complementary elements such as personalized nutrition plans and exercise regimes like yoga.
Achieving this is revolutionary as it would mean that we would take ownership of our health instead of leaving it to the medical field to tell us what to do.  It would mean a real shift to patient centered care.

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