Helping Aging Patients Remain Healthy Must Be a Centerpiece of U.S. Health Care Policy
07.09.13 | By John Castellani
Every day, our industry works to develop new medicines that extend and improve the quality of life for patients. As the Baby Boom generation enters retirement age, one critical health care issue that we must address is how to keep our nation’s seniors healthy. It’s a topic that I come across regularly in my role at PhRMA.
This past week’s ‘Conversations’ question (Every day, thousands of Americans turn 65. How do we help ensure that the U.S. system is ready to meet their needs?) addressed the issue head on. In response, we heard from Pfizer, the Healthcare Leadership Council and the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs (NANASP) on potential near-term solutions, which all centered around a common theme: as we live longer, it’s critical that we find ways to help patients stay healthier and address chronic, long-term care issues effectively.
Consider the following: Alzheimer’s alone will cost Medicare and Medicaid close to $300 billion annually by 2030, but finding a treatment that delays the onset of symptoms or slows its progression could result in significant savings. Similarly, discovering a cancer treatment that reduces deaths by 10 percent would yield significant savings. According to a University of Chicago study, it would be worth approximately $4.4 trillion in economic value to current and future generations.
Identifying ways to help patients adhere to their medications will also help people live longer, healthier lives – and produce significant cost savings. For example, recent research shows that every additional dollar spent on medications for adherent patients with congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol generates $3 to $10 dollars in savings on emergency room visits and inpatient hospitalizations.
This dynamic – the potential for medicines to reduce spending in our health care system – is being increasingly recognized. Last year, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office indicated for the first time that prescription medications help achieve overall Medicare cost savings. For every one percent increase in the total number of prescriptions filled, there is a .02 percent decrease in spending on other medical services. This may seem small, but it represents a sea of change in government thinking.
We can all build a health care system that provides high-quality, accessible care for the influx of aging Americans. Keeping Americans healthier for longer periods of time is essential, and our industry is a key member of the broader ecosystem that will continue to confront these challenges to improve the lives of patients.
Stay tuned for our next question. In the meantime, we encourage you to share your thoughts and ideas by joining the conversation.