Are prescription drugs overpriced?
Professor Sir Michael Rawlings, head of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence accused drug companies of charging too much for their drugs. The drug companies say they have to cover the cost of getting a drug to market. So who's right?
Please cast your vote after you've read the arguments.
You can also add to the debate by leaving a comment at the end of the page.
Students find it hard to pay prescription fees
Students who are at University and are over 18 years of age have to pay for their prescriptions. A lot of students cannot afford, for example £7.10 for eardrops for an ear infection when they have to get loans in order for their maintenance and tuition fees, and also money for food and other resources, such as books. What is more important- studies or medicine? It is awful when you suffer such regular problems as cystitis for instance, and have to get medication in order to treat it. Imagine if this occurs every month. How are you supposed to support yourself? When you ask if you can get support in the form of dentistry appointments, doctor’s prescriptions and eyesight tests, you are usually expected to give half of the money that your parents give you for food on such things; this is ridiculous for the full-time student who barely has the means to support him/herself.
Show me a student who has not spent more that £7.10 on alcohol during their years of study and then we could have sympathy if they could not afford the cost of an NHS prescription.
The money available to students, through loans and grants, is supposed to cover all their living costs; any money needed for prescriptions should be covered in that amount.
If students really were so hard up that they could not afford £7.10 for ear drops to treat an infection, I'm sure their university hardship-fund would help them out.
Through student loans, and grants and working through the holidays, there's no reason students should be hard up. If they really cannot manage financially, there's no reason why they can't work full-time and do a course with the Open University part-time.
Learning to budget is an important life-skill that applies to students as much as anyone else.
GPs prescribing cheaper drugs would save the government and the NHS money
Drug importation and establishing drug-buying pools where businesses and companies could intervene and use their combined buying power to reduce the prices of drugs for individuals, could improve the expenditure on expensive drugs for the Average Joe. If drug-prices keep on increasing with inflation then there will be a substantial refusal to purchase these drugs and this will cause problems for both the ill and the drug companies. It is impossible as an individual to buy in bulk and reduce prices generally because when you only need a specific prescription, you will be wasting the drugs that you are buying in bulk.
The Government could save more than £300m a year by being more efficient when prescribing drugs. GPs could make more use of cheaper, non-brand versions of the drugs, without harming care. An example of the NHS overpricing drugs: one treatment for gastric problems, Omeprazole, can be bought from wholesalers for between £2.50 and £3.40, yet the NHS pays £10.85 every time it is prescribed GPs often over-prescribe and £100m at least could be saved by them being more careful in this matter(1).
Medication being expensive is extra stress:
A lot of people have hectic lives to live and medication proves to be a problem rather than a cure. If you are a working parent for instance, then how are you meant to keep up with your routines and chores if you have to find an extra £10 for medication every time you get ill? Medication is meant to be a relief for the stresses of daily life and it proves to be more of a problem with increasing prices.
Medication for serious conditions is the most expensive
The four most common types of medicines that are at a heavy expense are: statins for high cholesterol, renin-angiotensin drugs for high blood pressure, proton pump inhibitors for gastric conditions and clopidogrel for blood clotting, and between them, they account for one-fifth of the entire NHS drugs bill(2) . They are expensive but vital to treat the patient’s conditions. You cannot leave these conditions untreated and the medication therefore needs to be paid for- but with what? If people cannot afford this then surely the condition will only get worse? It would not be as serious for patients if the heavy expenses involved paying for ear infection medication, but these medicines are essential for their care. A lot of these conditions, such as blood clotting and gastric conditions in particular, are extremely uncomfortable to live with and highly painful, and the reasonable person in those situations will pay for anything the doctor tells them in order to recover, rather than asking for the cheaper alternatives perhaps available.
All the evidence shows that prescription drugs cost too much
“It [was] estimated that overpricing is costing the NHS £500 million a year. ” More than this “statistics produced by the Department of Health… show that Britain frequently emerges as the country that spends more than any other in the EU on branded prescription drugs”(1).
(1) Pierce A and Quinn B (2007) NHS pays £500m too much for its drugs [online] available; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1543326/NHS-pays-500m-too-much-for-its-drugs.htmlBy Andrew Pierce and Ben Quinn
In this time of economic downturn health worries will be worse
With the rising prices of oil and bills it doesn’t seem right that people should have to worry about their health in addition.
Continuity across the British Isles
In Wales students do not have to worry about the price of prescription drugs because they are free thanks to the Welsh Assembly. If this is applicable in devolved areas of government why not England and Westminster?
Pharmaceutical industries make huge profits
Yes, prescription drugs are generally sold expensively worldwide, especially in North America. The pharmaceutical industry has been the most profitable industry in America for each of the past 10 years and, in 2001, was a five-and-one-half time more profitable than the average for Fortune 500 companies (1). Moreover, in Canada, the sale of a typical patented branded drug would bring about a profit margin of almost 70% (2). With all these facts, it is without dispute that only overpriced prescription drugs will lead to such a lucrative pharmaceutical industry.
(1)CIBC World Markets (2003) 2003 Investors' Guide to The Canadian Drugstore Industry, [Online], Available: http://www.envoycapital.com/includes/docs/drugstore_industry.pdf [21 August 2008].
(2)Families USA (2002) Profiting from Pain: Where Prescription Drug Dollars Go, [Online], Available: http://www.familiesusa.org/assets/pdfs/PPreport89a5.pdf [21 August 2008].
It's a "No-Brainer". In the USA Big Pharma is enjoying 8 years of "Dubya" by raking in the profits
My first couple decades as a Registered Pharmacist in the United States were from 1965 to 1985. The major pharmaceutical manufacturers were invested in healing, curing disease and ameliorating symptoms that diminished quality of life. They were the "Good Guys". We, in the industry, trusted them. We worked with them. We had relationships with their representatives. They were good times, fine times. The average prescription was around $12.00. Generic equivalents were new to the market. Brand name dispensing was the
custom. The manufacturers made money.
Now, 2005, there is no doubt that the only mission Big Pharma strives for is to MAKE A PROFIT. As big a profit as they can. The idea that they are interested
in curing illness is a laugher. They bring out new drugs for big illnesses "high cholesterol". Lipitor is or was recently the top grossing drug on the planet.
As Rhett Buter said, "Frankly, My Dear, we don't give a damn about your little,
inconspicuous disease. There's no money in it. Oh, hell, stop it. We know you are going to die, but .. well, there' just NO PROFIT in it." Pfizer then turns to Smith-Kline Glaxo and says, "Let's go get a drink."
Jim Plagakis at http://www.jimplagakis.com
The government/NHS cannot control inflation
In 2006 the NHS spent more than £8bn on medicines in primary care, representing a 60% real-terms increase in the last 10 years (3). Drug prices are merely increasing with inflation and that is out of the drug companies’ control. The government is merely responding to inflation and cannot do anything to change the economic status of our country and do try to reduce prices as it is.
Everyone has to pay the same prices
Everyone has to pay for their prescriptions after the age of 18 if they are still in full-time education. It is not like the government/NHS is targeting poorer people, such as students, but adults who can afford to pay. Children are not included with all due reason, but students can find ways of getting their parents for instance to pay for their prescriptions. There are exemptions such as forms (the HC2 and HC3) which allow individuals a reduction on prices or exempt them from paying altogether.
The NHS has tried to reduce prices
The NHS has claimed that they have tried to lower the price of drugs and are consistently looking into the issue. Not only has the NHS looked into the issue, but they have also aided it by £100m in driving down the cost of drugs(4) . The NHS cannot be expected to dramatically reduce its prices when the future of the NHS would be at risk due to that. The government care more about the healthcare and means of British citizens and would not want to jeopardise that by putting the NHS out of business. It is a publicly-funded business and relies on the money from things such as prescriptions in order to keep on providing good and reliable healthcare.
Reducing prices will affect the NHS
Pharmacies are reluctant to reduce prices because their prices have to reflect their costs. A great deal of money is spent in order to get the drugs to the patient and the NHS would be greatly affected if prices reduced because in business terms they would be doomed to failure. A business which relies on public funding is successful and continues if it is and continues to be publicly-funded, and this applies to most industries including the NHS. The general public would surely prefer the NHS with expensive and overpriced drugs to no NHS at all and all private healthcare, which would be extremely expensive anyway.
People should ask for cheaper alternatives
Instead of moaning about overpriced drugs, people should take responsibility and use their initiative in asking for alternatives. People could go elsewhere for medication when they are absolutely certain that they cannot afford GP prescribed drugs. Alternatives to overpriced drugs of the NHS that cost them less money and can be brought, for example, from the local supermarkets, such as Tescos.
It is difficult to qualify the extent of wastage, and that is not in the doctor’s hands. The patients should be encouraged not to waste medication and to give GPs back the remaining pills for example that they did not need to use and this in itself, is a cheaper alternative.
The price of prescription drugs is fair in proportion to what they prevent.
The purpose of prescription drugs must be remembered. Arguably they prevent against the development of serious disease and hence save both the patients the trauma of falling seriously ill and the National Health Service the cost of people falling seriously ill. Thinking about what the medicine prevents and the bigger picture makes the miniscule costs of prescription drugs in comparison seem quite appealing.
Here I go again. "A "No-Brainer" from 180 degrees
Modern pharmacruticals are a bargain. You can go to Chilis for lunch every day. Have drinks and a nice meal and spend $18.00 plus tip. That's over a hundred bucks a week and you don't even wince when you pull out your wallet. That's just lunch. Your cigarette smoking habit costs you more than $50.00 a week and your stops at the testosterone dripping strip club a couple nights week is another big expense.
So what do you do? You whine about the price of your asthma inhalers. They come out to about $50.00 a week. That, my friend, is a "frikkin'" bargain. Fifty years ago, you wheeze yourself to death before pension age.
Take off your colored glasses. Medicine that cures a strep infection that left un- treated could become scarlet fever costs $12.00. There are a million similar examples in the naked city.
Modern drugs are a bargain. However, look at my "YES" post. I hate it that the drug companies are bald-faced profiteers. They love it that the population of the world is increasing. Like the undertakers, they are in a growth industry.
Jim Plagakis at http://www.jimplagakis.com
Because so many people either only have to pay the prescription charge, or in many cases no charge at all for their drugs, the NHS wastes £100m each year on drugs that go in the bin.
Doctors should only prescribe drugs when people have serious ailments and the prescription charges should actually be much higher for single treatments meaning people who have chronic conditions can pay less.
Basically we're dishing out a whole bunch of subsidised analgesics and anti-histamines that end up in the bin while people cannot get live-saving/prolonging treatments for their cancer.
What do you think?