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How Much Is Life Worth?

August 24, 2022Reading Time 3 Minutes

How much do you think a drug that will save the lives of 200 to 300 babies each year should cost? How should the prices of new technologies, gene therapies, and medicines for chronic diseases be determined? Do you think it is fair that people have to pay for life-saving drugs?

In an ideal world, remedies that heal people and soothe their suffering should be accessible to all. Unfortunately, things don't work that way in the real world.

When Frederick Banting discovered insulin in 1923, he refused to have a patent for it. According to him, for a doctor to profit from a life-saving discovery is not ethical. The other inventors, James Collip and Charles Best, sold the insulin patent to the University of Toronto for only $1 intending to make it accessible to anyone who needed it. If these noble gentlemen saw today's price tags or the pricing policies of pharmaceutical companies, they would probably despair for the future of humanity.

In 2015, Martin Shkreli who has a bad reputation, caused anger when he raised the price of Daraprim, which is used in parasitic infection toxoplasmosis and some cases, cancer, and AIDS from $13.50 to $750. In the same way, big companies' buying the rights of old and cheap generic drugs and raising the prices caused fury. The fact that the 4 most popular types of insulin in the USA have tripled in price in the last decade worries diabetic patients.

Although the price increase in generic drugs such as insulin upsets patients, this is not the only problem. The prices of new treatment options for rare diseases are so high that only a small group can afford them.

For instance, the experimental treatment approved in 2019 by FDA for SMA, a rare childhood disease, currently costs $2.125 million per patient. The other gene therapy approved by the FDA is used for genetic blindness. Unfortunately, the price of this treatment competes with the SMA drug. Patients have to pay $425,000 for each eye.

Revolutionary gene therapies may eliminate deadly childhood diseases and other rare disorders. However, they are unlikely to provide comprehensive benefits due to their high price.

According to political philosopher Matt Zwolinski, when we pay for a drug, we are not only paying for the cost, but we also pay for hundreds of other medicines that are not on the market yet. Manufacturers must profit to continue research and development.

Companies must ensure that the drugs they produce are accessible to all groups of patients, not just wealthy patients or citizens of developed countries. Only this way, gene therapies, and other revolutionary procedures can reach their potential to change patients' lives for the better.

When personalized treatments are compared with generic solutions, they seem attractive since they offer solutions to cure previously incurable diseases. The future of health technologies lies in personalized treatment solutions as they will be more effective as prices lower.

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