Give patients bang for buck without government rationing

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Efforts to reduce health care spending should not come at the cost of fewer drug options, ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross argues in an op-ed featured in yesterday’s Des Moines Register. He discusses the potential rationing of health care in the context of a recently published small study which suggested that the anti-cancer drug Avastin ($50 per dose) might be as effective as Lucentis — which costs $2,500 per dose — for the treatment of “wet,” age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Yet Lucentis may be more efficacious than Avastin for certain patient populations. After all, the data from the study was based on just 22 patients. Even so, Dr. Ross fears that motivated by the desire to cut costs, government officials may remove it from Medicare and Medicaid plans. He writes:

If it's possible to cut down on drug expenses without compromising the quality of patient care, doctors and other health care providers should be encouraged to do so.

But they shouldn't be forced to do so. Physicians must retain the freedom to prescribe Lucentis in the event they determine Avastin won't work as well for a particular patient. And health care insurers should cover the drug. Patients deserve access to the highest quality of care - not simply those treatments that offer the biggest bang for the insurer's or the government's buck.