The paramount benefit of personalized medicine is improved survival among patients suffering from life-threatening diseases. This is great news for patients, but as these once deadly diseases become chronic conditions, it has the knock-on effect of driving increased medical and related costs for those patients. As longevity increases and retirement ages rise, the value of cost-effectively managing survivorship skyrockets.
In the world of oncology, for example, breakthrough therapies are extending survival for many tumor types that were once considered a short-term death sentence, such as melanoma. Phasing out acute treatment paradigms, “maintenance therapy” is now being promulgated in many cancers such as lymphomas and leukemias. This maintenance therapy is a huge step forward from a treatment standpoint, but often presents a significant financial burden for these cancer survivors, due to growing medical costs, as well as missed work and reduced productivity. A June 2014 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report
, found that from 2008-2011, male cancer survivors had annual medical costs of more than $8,000 per person, and additional productivity losses of $3,700 compared to males without a history of cancer. Other recent research
suggests that reduced income is the biggest single cause of financial loss for people living with cancer.
In some cases, the cost of survivorship is so extreme it draws national attention and government intervention. In February, 2014, for example, Congress demanded an evidence-based rationale from Gilead to defend the price of its new hepatitis C drug, Sovaldi, which costs $84,000 per patient per year. Meanwhile, the chronic disease burden of diabetes and cardiovascular disease continues its steady march toward pandemic status, and developmental compounds for Alzheimer’s disease portend an era of decelerating disease progression and perhaps enhanced survival. The confluence of these treatment advancements, compounded with the aging demographic, point to the market scenario of more seniors stressing the healthcare system.
How life science companies should respond
As innovations improve survival, the life sciences sector must extend its view of the treatment “episode” to include an outlook of downstream events, including the co-incidence of new morbidities through end-of-life care. The notion of “survivorship” requires careful examination to determine the risk factors and outcomes associated with patients who are now surviving what were once considered deadly diseases. As with any chronic condition, survivorship in these cases should be viewed as a distinct health state that a patient experiences after treatment, which may have important clinical, humanistic, social and economic outcomes.
As innovations improve survival, the industry must extend its view of treatment to include an outlook of downstream events, including new morbidities through end-of-life care, and the impact to patients’ quality of life. We must ask ourselves how the system can do a better job of monitoring patients for latent risks and benefits stemming from their primary treatment in order to enhance their entire health journey cost-effectively
(This is the third in 10-part blog series on industry trends that are shaping the future of healthcare. To see a report on all ten trends click here)