Securing the Benefits of Medical Innovation for Seniors: The Role of Prescription Drugs and Drug Coverage. EXAMPLES OF MEDICAL INNOVATIONS THAT HAVE IMPROVED THE QUALITY OF LIFE FOR AMERICAN SENIORS


Many seniors suffer from chronic diseases that have the potential to significantly interfere with their independence and well-being. In the past, as a result of these chronic conditions, many seniors became disabled and were forced to limit their activities. Advances in medical science and new pharmaceutical products have significantly improved the quality of life for seniors in this country, enabling many to live longer, more active, and independent lives. Medical conditions in which recent advances in pharmacotherapeutics have had a dramatic impact on the course of disease and, hence, quality of individuals’ lives include cancer, osteoporosis, asthma, arthritis, high cholesterol, heart attacks, strokes, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes, and migraine headaches.

However, due to government controls on access to drugs in other countries, patients who need new therapies often have to wait longer for them or may never have access to them at all. For example, in Western Europe, it took an average of 643 days for the initial approval and subsequent recognition of a drug by all European Commission countries, whereas in the U.S. it took an average of 335 days. (Davidson 2001) In Canada, approval of Rituxanâ, a new treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma, took two more years after the drug was approved in the U.S. in 1998. (Evenson 2000) Moreover, in Canada, where patients often experience delays in treatment under the government health system, researchers attempting to quantify the cost of this waiting time for cardiac patients have estimated it to amount to $1,100 to $5,600 annually per patient. (Walker and Wilson 2001)

This section highlights recent pharmaceutical breakthroughs in the treatment of chronic diseases that are improving the life and longevity of American seniors, as well as exciting new drugs that are in the research pipeline. In addition, specific examples of reduced access to new drugs in countries with some form of government controls are discussed.

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