Innovative treatments not only save lives – they save money. A newly published editorial in Forbes by pharmaceutical executive and chemist John Lechleiter illustrates how past medical triumphs, such as the Salk polio vaccine and anti-retroviral treatments for HIV, effectively curbed escalating costs. To illustrate his point, he cites philanthropist and financier Michael Milken's observation that “in the early 1950s, the cost of polio care in the U.S. was predicted to be $100 billion by the year 2000.” Of course, the Salk vaccine has virtually eradicated the disease – along with its toll on both lifespan and national spending.
Reining in healthcare costs by making small cuts to services is a short-sighted solution, Lechleiter argues. With the Baby Boom generation aging in great numbers and ailments like Alzheimer’s disease sending projected medical spending into the stratosphere, he urges policymakers to heed history's example and create an atmosphere that fosters medical innovation and improves patients' access to these new treatments – which one day become low-cost generic drugs. Only then can we make the kind of massive impact that would truly bend the cost curve of medical spending downward.