Expensive Medicines are a Major Health Problem

The skyrocketing cost of medications is a current and controversial bioethical issue to healthcare. For 2018, “New York-based Segal Consulting foresaw a 10.3% increase in outpatient prescription drug spending for workers and early retirees” (Kelley, 2018). Medication costs have been rising in the United States, bringing concern to patients, prescribers, payers, and policy makers. Prescription drug spending in the United States exceeds all other countries due to brand-name drug prices that have been increasing at alarming rates. According to Kesselheim, Avorn, and Sarpatwari (2016), “In 2013, per capita spending on prescription drugs was $858 compared with an average of $400 for 19 other industrialized nations.” The amount of money that Americans spend on medications is far greater than those who live in other countries. At the rate of the rising costs, more and more people cannot afford to buy the medications that they need. The only way to stop the medication costs from going even higher is through policymaking.

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There are many reasons to why medication costs keep increasing. “The most important factor that allows manufacturers to set high drug prices is market exclusivity, protected by monopoly rights awarded upon Food and Drug Administration approval and by patents” (Kesselheim et al, 2016). Generic drugs can reduce the prices of drugs, but access to them may be delayed due to numerous business and legal strategies. For widely used medications, manufacturers typically retain market exclusivity for an average of 12.5 years after approval by the Food and Drug Administration, but companies may extend that period by making minor changes to a drug’s formulation. Hence, this delays patent expiration and they can pay competitors to delay or abort the introduction of generic drugs (Sofer, 2016). Therefore, even if a patient is able to go see a doctor and be diagnosed of an illness, if he or she is not able to afford the medications prescribed, all the money and time that is spent at the doctor’s office is wasted.

Many times, medication compliance can be associated with the cost of medications. Patients may try to take half the dose of a medication since it is so expensive. They may feel that taking some of the drug is sufficient to keep them alive and if they take only half the pill, it will last them longer before they need to buy more. Otherwise, they may not take the medication at all. According to Kelley (2018), “Today’s high prices are pushing more and more patients into non-adherence. It is a prescription for trouble for us all.” He explains that even the most effective drug is useless if people do not take it since it is too expensive. People are hurting from the problem of unaffordable drug prices. A second grade teacher in Texas, named Heather Holland, had the flu last February. She did not get her Tamiflu prescription since it would cost her $116. A few days later, she died in the ICU (Kelley, 2018). Many similar tragedies have occurred because people decline to pick up prescriptions due to their high prices. This issue impacts the lives of patients since they are skipping medicines. The high costs of medications are driving non-adherence and it is doing even more damage to patients and healthcare. Since they are not taking the medications prescribed, their illness worsens and they end up in the hospital when the illness is out of control or fatal. President Donald Trump described pharmaceutical companies as “getting away with murder.” In the 2013 National Health Interview Survey done by the National Center for Health Statistics and reported by the CDC, 7.8% of U.S. adults passed up prescribed medications to save money. “The burden of out-of-pocket costs has grown in recent years, as expensive new drugs have entered the market and consumers have been asked to bear a larger share of the cost” (Kelley, 2018). People are risking their lives not taking medications because they are so expensive.

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Expensive Medicines Are A Major Health Problem. (2022, Apr 12). Retrieved January 30, 2023 , from
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