Have you heard the phrase “biologic drug” before? Biologic drugs are made from a living organism or its products. They are used in the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of cancer and other diseases. Biologic drugs, also known as “biologic agents” or “biological agents,” may include such things as antibodies, interleukins, and vaccines.
In a recent study, researchers analyzed the effectiveness and cost of biologic drugs in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. What they found was not particularly flattering. In fact, they had this health advice: newer biologic drugs are extraordinarily expensive and may not be cost-effective when compared to more basic treatments.
The study authors analyzed data on 844 people with relapsing-remitting MS in the United States. The data took into account not only the cost of disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) — such as interferon or “TYSABRI,” but also hospital and office-based care, diagnostic tests, nursing home costs, and time taken off from work. According to the investigators’ calculations, DMTs represent about half of all health-care costs over 10 years for a person with MS.
Now — what about health gains after all this money invested? According to the researchers, any health benefits were modest. For example, people taking interferon beta-1b experienced an average of about six years with no relapses over the course of a decade, compared to five years without relapses for those not taking DMTs. And these modest benefits changed significantly between individuals.
The researchers say their study is a call for the need to control pharmaceutical prices. For example, the authors noted that, in 2010, a year’s supply of one type of interferon drug would cost an estimated $12,000 in the United Kingdom, compared to $34,000 in the United States (!). Lowering U.S. prices by two-thirds would make the drugs much more cost-effective, the authors stated. So would starting the medications earlier, to better stave off MS-linked disability.
Alternative remedies could also be an effective means of managing a disease such as MS. To help reduce drug costs for any medical condition you have, remember to get the health advice of your doctor and other natural health-care providers.