One word, Sovaldi, has created a huge controversy and spawned many discussions about the cost of life saving drugs. Sovaldi is a medication used to treat Hepatitis C and it has a very good track record due to it’s 80% cure rate. The medication comes in pill form and costs $1,000.00 per pill or $84,000.00 for a full 12 week course of treatment. If Hepatitis C is left untreated it can lead to the need for liver transplant or result in death.
Many countries regulate the costs of new drugs and in fact a person can travel to Egypt or India and purchase Sovaldi for much less. The US does not regulate drug pricing because we are for the most part a free market society and supply and demand tend to determine price. The window for making money on a specific drug is relatively short because once the patent expires generic versions of the drug can be created and sold at a reduced price. The company creating the generic version doesn’t have to recoup all of the research and development cost so they have the ability to bring to market the same drug for less cost.
It becomes an ethical debate as well as economical debate. At what point does the value of a life saving drug outweigh the cost? At what point should the government step in to make sure drugs are affordable to anyone who needs them? Why should the government be able to limit how much money a company can make on an invention? Will price caps keep pharmaceutical companies from spending so much money on research and development?
I don’t have the answers to any of the above questions but Sovaldi has sparked a debate that will be interesting to follow.