A Push for Drug Price Transparency

By Steve Barrett
Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll in 2015 suggested nearly three-fourths of Americans consider drug prices unjustifiably high. Citing concerns about negative perceptions of drug pricing, the Health and Public Policy Committee of the American College of Physicians recently offered recommendations designed to increase transparency and patient access to medications.

Some of those recommendations include:

  • Disclosure to regulators of drugs’ actual material and production costs
  • Disclosure of research and development costs that account for a portion of a drug’s pricing
  • High standards of transparency regarding drugs developed in connection with taxpayer-funded basic research
  • More flexibility by publicly funded health programs to negotiate volume discounts
  • Possible measures to allow reimportation of U.S.-manufactured drugs, so long as their safety can be reasonably ascertained

The Debt Divide

It’s scarcely news that medical students frequently rack up copious student loan debt. The chasm between their debt load and that of many other students may be surprising, however.

Citing figures from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, National Public Radio placed median graduate debt for medical school students at approximately $148,000. Law school students were not far behind in that dubious ranking — about $117,000 — and pharmacy students had roughly $94,000 in debt.

The amounts drop precipitously after that. A Master of Fine Arts student accumulates about $48,000 in debt, followed by $46,000 for a person who earns a doctorate in education, $24,000 for a master’s in education, $20,000 for a master’s in social work, $18,000 for a Master of Arts degree, $17,000 for an MBA and $9,000 for a Master of Science degree.

The average graduate debt load totaled about $23,000.

The figures represented all graduate loans for outgoing full-time graduate students but did not include strictly online or night programs, nor programs at for-profit colleges.

ROI on Mental Health Treatment

Greater worldwide investment in the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders can more than pay for itself, according to research in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Reduced economic output related to those disorders totals as much as $8.5 trillion annually. It would cost about $147 billion to generate substantial improvement in treatment from 2016 to 2030 across 36 countries that represent 80 percent of the world’s population, the researchers state.

However, that investment would yield enhanced productivity totaling $230 billion among patients with depression and $169 billion among patients with anxiety disorders. The researchers estimate an additional $310 billion return on investment from 43 million added years of healthy life.

“[R]esulting benefit to cost ratios amount to 2.3–3.0 to 1 when economic benefits only are considered, and 3.3–5.7 to 1 when the value of health returns is also included,” they write.