Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Recession as an experiment in value of treatments

This is going to be short and sweet.

Pharmalot reported two days ago that abandonment rate for all new prescriptions for brand-name drugs has reached nearly 10%. This should worry Pharma, but not for the reasons that they think. Yes, this means at least a short-to-medium term hit to their revenues. But more importantly, if this trend persists for a meaningful amount of time, it provides an opportunity for healthcare researchers to establish the true value (or lack thereof) of many of the routine drugs prescribed to the US population. What I mean is, we can examine what happens to health trends, and even to specific diseases, while patients are not taking the medications that are considered so vital for their well-being. If we do not see a rise in untoward events, or, better yet, if we see that our public's health is actually better without these meds, that will deal a significant blow to the idea of "a pill for everything". Alternatively we may learn that these meds are truly vital, and this finding should certainly impact our debate about access to them.

Of course, there will be objections. The methods for mining these effects may not be solidly hypothesis-testing, the time in question may not be enough to detect any meaningful changes, and, our favorite, the causality will be difficult to establish. All of the this notwithstanding, this period of time should provide a very interesting natural experiment in the overall value of our treatments today.

Hat tip to @AHCJ_Pia for a ink to this story here.    

1 comment:

  1. Yes this would be a good 'benthamite' test of what patients really value, it's a shame for patient autonomy to be drawn out in this way but it beats paternalism that's for sure.