Drug Companies: H1N1 and a New Spin

The advent of the H1N1 swine flu virus is temporarily changing the spin on drug companies. The demand for life-saving remedies is getting more play than the call for cost-cutting reform.
Drug Companies as Heroes

• A vaccine for H1N1 swine flu may be in clinical trials within "a couple of months" as development is accelerated. (Bloomberg)
• The World Health Organization raised the level of alert to phase 5 and expects to reach the maximum of phase 6 soon indicating that a "pandemic is imminent." (NYTimes.com)
• On average, newer medicines increased drug costs by an average of $18, but they reduced hospital and other non-drug costs by $129. (Study by Frank Lichtenberg, Professor of Business, Columbia University, cited on the Pfizer website)
Drug Companies as Villains
• The cost of prescription drugs increased by 89 percent between 2000 and 2007, although they continue to account for approximately 10 percent of America's healthcare expenditures. (Kaiser Family Foundation)
• Expenditures on prescriptions are projected to increase to $515.7 billion, or 12 percent of America's healthcare spending by 2017. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
• One crusader's Internet thread promulgates a common view. It provided a list of prescription drugs and their alleged mark-up. For example, Paxil® was claimed to have a consumer price (100 tablets) of $220.27, a cost of active ingredients of $7.60 and resultant markup of 2,898 percent.
My Spin
The current situation with H1N1 underscores the heroic innovation and productivity we all need from drug companies. As healthcare reform progresses, we must guard against a possible epidemic of drug-company vilification that could prove fatal.
—Tom DeSanto

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