Thursday, 14 September 2017

Why Prescription Drugs Need to Be Cheaper

The world of pharmaceuticals is a complex one with a labyrinthine process of bringing new drugs from conception to reality. After a drug has been designed, a viable synthesis needs to be
formulated that will allow the drug to be produced in an economical way. The goal here is to identify the cheapest and quickest synthesis route which will allow the drug to be produced, and ultimately sold, for a reasonable price to consumers and healthcare institutions.

Once the drug has been produced it goes through several trial phases, starting with animal trials and gradually moving towards human trials. Every part of this process must adhere to vigorously designed protocols and be thoroughly documented and reported.

Consequently, the costs to the pharmaceutical company of bringing a drug to market are significant and it is only by recouping these costs, and then some, that pharmaceutical companies can continue to research and develop new drugs and new drug classes. However, these needs must be balanced against the needs of the general population to access affordable and effective healthcare. Below are just some of the reasons that cheaper prescription drugs benefit everyone.

More Accessible

The cheaper prescription drugs are, the more people will be able to afford them. When drugs are prohibitively expensive, it creates two tiers of patients; those that can afford them and those that can’t. Lowering the cost of prescription drugs greatly reduces, or even removes, this barrier and creates a more egalitarian healthcare landscape. In fact, the impact of having a significant portion of the population unable to afford the drugs they need has detrimental effects to wider society as well as individuals.

Preventable and treatable illnesses contribute significantly to the number of sick days employees take every year (something referred to as ‘economic downtime’), and consequently when workers of particular socio-economic classes are disproportionately affected by certain illnesses that they can’t afford to treat, the corresponding sector of the economy suffers an increase in downtime.

Better Quality of Life 

Ensuring that as many people as possible are able to access affordable drugs and other treatments means that quality of life will improve, not just for those individuals but society more broadly. It is easy to underestimate the impact that the presence of easily testable illnesses can have on society as a whole, but aside from the aforementioned economic impacts there are also more subtle effects.

Friends and family of those suffering from an illness that they can’t afford to treat may suffer psychologically. Similarly, many of those who cannot afford lifesaving treatment through the proper channels may turn to black market drugs of questionable origin and unknown quality. Even if a patient is able to secure an affordable source for legitimate drugs, many of these can be dangerous when administered without the supervision of a doctor.

The Future

So, what can be done to increase access to these drugs? There are no simple solutions, but there is widespread agreement that we need access to discount prescription drugs. There are now a number of lobbying groups campaigning for this and signing up or donating to these organisations can help them make a real difference.

Increasing access to cheaper prescription drugs will be a key part of the ongoing struggle to improve healthcare for all.

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