Does the Obama administration “get it” when it comes to pharmacy’s vital interests and lowering health care costs?
One sometimes wonders. As much as I like the president and many of his ideas and instincts, I’m sometimes stumped by some of the lesser-understood facets of the administration’s health policy, and by the seemingly contradictory sets of priorities promoted by that policy.
The new world of targeted, specialized medicines — many of them bioengineered and many of them aimed at smaller and smaller segments of the population — isn’t just on its way. It’s here. And it’s going to radically change the practice of pharmacy.
Here’s an eye-opener: Specialty drugs will likely account for 50% of all drug costs by 2018, up from 28.7% of total prescription drug costs in 2012.
These are the days of the empowered patient — the patient who asks questions, who wants to know about how to prevent the diseases that ailed their parents or how to live more successfully with the conditions they have, who seeks and finds health information from doctors, nurses, magazines and most especially from the teeming trove of online health sites.
For well over a century, the Statue of Liberty has invited the world to “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Now, thanks to stunning advances in the sequencing of the human genome and patient-specific genetic research, America’s healthcare system is extending another invitation to this nation’s complex polyglot population.
It’s often the case that those in the midst of revolutionary times don’t really see how fundamentally the world around them is changing until long after the changes have occurred. So let’s start by declaring that the revolution has begun: Genomic research will dramatically transform both the practice of pharmacy and the way patients are treated with medications for many diseases.
The sequencing of the human genome was a huge scientific breakthrough, and it’s spawning additional breakthroughs as genetic testing labs spring up and the cost of testing individual patients for their ability to metabolize a particular drug drops to affordable levels for health plan payers.