The cost of medications is becoming a major threat to patients seeking treatment for disease, and the problem appears to be growing. What role a free market system and competition should play in a commercial area regulated by government regulation including patents is difficult to gauge. Patients and advocacy groups are calling for more awareness of the rising prices of important drugs for cancer and other life threatening conditions.
Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University have a strong and growing collaborative relationship surrounding the shared desire to improve health and the way patients experience health care. That collaboration most recently led to a seminar to address issues on pharmaceutical pricing and marketing, bringing together experts from across the health care industry.
Held January 16, the daylong seminar was hosted by Rafael Fonseca, M.D., Department Chair of Medicine, at Mayo Clinic in Arizona; and Gary Marchant, Ph.D., J.D., and James Weinstein, J.D., law professors at Arizona State University.
The objectives were to examine the pricing of therapeutics and understand the complexities and also put these costs in context. A panel with representatives from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, University of Arizona, Center for American Progress, as well as Dr. Fonseca, examined the challenge of how drugs should be priced.
In the afternoon, Professor Weinstein moderated a panel with speakers from NDA Partners, Yale Law School, Northwestern University, and the Goldwater Institute to discuss the issues related to off-label marketing, the first amendment and related policies. The final session of the day was a round table discussion looking at drug pricing and what can and should be done, moderated by Mara Aspinall, ASU. This panel included Marcia Horn, J.D., International Cancer Advocacy Network; as well as David Hyman, M.D., J.D., University of Illinois; Denis Cortese, M.D., ASU; and Alan Venook, M.D., University of California San Francisco; discussing what possible solutions and models could be considered.
The daylong seminar was well attended by a mix of physicians, attorneys, economists and patient advocates leading to a lively discussion. There was a consensus that the current system is problematic because many new therapeutic agents are very costly. Several viewpoints were expressed as to how the system could be improved. There clearly was fertile material for ongoing discussion, but also enough to build some consensus. The work of this group will be distilled into a white paper that participants hope will help influence the future of pharmaceutical pricing and regulation.
Advancing the science of health care delivery, including managing the total cost of care, is the focus of the Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery. Building on Mayo’s nearly 150 years of experience in applying scientific and engineering principles to health care delivery, the center is transforming the way that patients everywhere receive and experience health care. This seminar was one example of the way we are working to educate and influence for the improvement of health and our health care system.