By Nigel Darby, Advisor - GE Healthcare Life Sciences
One of the pleasures of working in healthcare is seeing the amazing progress we’ve made as an industry to tackle disease and improve quality of life. But we face a big problem! Too often, we see headlines promoting the latest medical triumph, countered with stories of patients denied treatments due to access or high costs. Against this background, the pharmaceutical industry has become a lightning rod for public anger, particularly as new medications tend to be costly. The industry’s success has become something of a double-edged sword, as the profits generated, and lack of access stoke the public and political outcry. How did we get here and what can be done about it?
First, we should recognize that we have become victims of our own success, as pharma innovation and consequent increasing life expectancy are a big driver of healthcare costs. Our healthcare systems are also increasingly burdened with lifestyle challenges, such as obesity, which cost the U.S healthcare system US$342 billion in 2013. Saving that kind of money would fund a lot of new and innovative healthcare, but the public health initiatives to tackle these costs are often an anathema to public and politician alike. Think, for example, of the reception that ‘sugar taxes’ have received. Like it or not, however, it’s only a matter of time before individual’s lifestyle choices and the impact they have on healthcare costs become a target for payers.