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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Asthma medicine market risky but profitable

My monthly asthma medicine supply -- which includes Advair, Singulair, Ventolin -- costs me about $100 every month.  Once we add in what the insurance company pays, we're talking about $400 a month.  So you can see asthma is a pretty expensive disease.

It's no wonder those in poverty have a hard time managing their asthma.  Even if an impoverished asthmatic is well educated he may not be able to afford the best asthma medicines, if any medicine.  Yet the pharmaceutical companies are making a profit nonetheless.

According to "Asthma and COPD drugs revenues to reach $43.8 billion by 2015.  This is the same market that made $23.1 billion in 2010.

I want the pharmaceutical companies to make money.  If you guys know how much money was involved in the making of just one medicine you'd be amazed.  Actually I can tell you because an article in the July issue of RT Magazine provides us with this information.

The article is called "What's in the Pipeline?  A brief look at some of the compounds in the pipeline for the treatment of asthma and COPD."    It notes the following facts:
  • Drug discovery and development can take up to 15 years
  • Drug discovery and development can cost up to $1 billion
  • Applications for new drugs was 150 in 2009
  • Applications for new drugs was 125 in 2010
  • Right now there are 54,000 clinical trials in the U.S. alone
  • 0.2 percent of drugs currently in clinical trials will be approved by the FDA
So you can see that for each medicine that reaches the pharmacy almost all of them are dead ends.  This means that pharmaceuticals risk a ton on the slightest chance their medicine will be approved.  And even then that it will be prescribed by doctors.

Pharmaceuticals can set any price they want as far as I'm concerned.  Still, I also believe that a fair price should be set so that poor people, or people who don't have health insurance, can gain access to this medicine.  Likewise, I wouldn't mind a lower cost to myself. 

Surely you're like me and want pharmaceutical companies to continue the quest to discover better medicine.  While lower prices may mean better access to better asthma care, higher prices may be the reward pharmaceutical companies require to continue the risk.

Some people say it's not fair medicine prices are so high.  I'm not one of them. 



Therapy Sites said...

Thank you so much for this post. This is true that most people say that medicines for asthma are very expensive but we should also take in considerations the money involved in making those medicines as well as the time or year they spent in making huge experiments.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for opening my eyes to how expensive an asthma regimen can be. $100/month is no joke!

However, I did notice that your regimen is more comprehensive than usual. From what I understand, Singulair and Advair are not usually prescribed together. This is because leukriene inhibitors don't work on many asthmatics; it is fairly "hit or miss." Not all asthmatics produce an overabundance of leukotrienes, though it has been shown that those with aspirin sensitivity do (the same imunologic pathways that cause aspirin sensitivity also cause leukotriene overproduction).

If leukotriene inhibitors do work for someone, generally a long acting bronchodilator is not needed. Just a steroid combined with the Singulair should suffice. If a long acting bronchodilator is needed in addition to Singulair, then the Singulair usually isn't working very well (or at all).

Singulair side effects are minimal and if your asthma is bad enough it is warranted to through Advair, Singulair, Xolair, and the kitchen sink at it though. I just wonder if you could save yourself some money by dropping the Singulair or replacing the Advair with Flovent.