An opinion piece on the declining rate of return on investments in medicine, and how healthcare is unique in that costs continue to increase unlike other sectors or industries. Quote:
But compared to the first half of the twentieth century we are spending staggering sums to eke out smaller and smaller gains. From 1900 to 1950, the average American’s life expectancy jumped about twenty-one years, from forty-seven to sixty-eight. The wonder drug of the era was penicillin, which along with better hygiene and other treatments, thwarted diseases that only seem to ravage developing countries these days—yellow fever, dysentery, typhoid, cholera, typhus, and more. Infant mortality rates plunged. It’s hard to determine costs, but in 1940 the amount spent for all scientific research by industry and government totaled $309 million (in current dollars, approximately twenty times this). By way of contrast, pharmaceutical companies alone spent $50 billion for research and development in 2008.
But people are more complex than iPads, life is more precious, and the ethics, morality and practicalities of deciding which treatments are cost-effective and which are not are fraught with difficulties. Personally, I favour more investment in preventive care (exercise, diet, other lifestyle and environmental issues) as likely holding the biggest promise.