Considering Cost in Treatment Choices

A recent article indicates a growing trend in medicine –considering the cost of therapy not just the effectiveness.  Physicians, by and large, view the patient sitting in front of them as their top priority, not “bedside rationing.”  On the other hand, policy makers often avoid engaging in cost issues and argue that physicians are best-suited to make decisions for their patients.

Here’s an excerpt:

Some doctors see a potential conflict in trying to be both providers of patient care and financial overseers.

“There should be forces in society who should be concerned about the budget, about how many M.R.I.s we do, but they shouldn’t be functioning simultaneously as doctors,” said Dr. Martin A. Samuels, the chairman of the neurology department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He said doctors risked losing the trust of patients if they told patients, “I’m not going to do what I think is best for you because I think it’s bad for the health care budget in Massachusetts.”

Doctors can face some stark trade-offs. Studies have shown, for example, that two drugs are about equally effective in treating an eye disease, macular degeneration. But one costs $50 a dose and the other close to $2,000. Medicare could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year if everyone used the cheaper drug, Avastin, instead of the costlier one, Lucentis.

But the Food and Drug Administration has not approved Avastin for use in the eye, and using it rather than the alternative, Lucentis, might carry an additional, albeit slight, safety risk. Should doctors consider Medicare’s budget in deciding what to use?

…Generally, Medicare is not supposed to consider cost effectiveness in coverage decisions, and other government attempts to do so are susceptible to criticism as rationing. Insurers do perform cost analyses, but they also risk ire from patients and doctors…

Also, in recent years, as part of a campaign called Choosing Wisely, many medical societies have submitted lists of the top five procedures, tests or products to be questioned because they are considered wasteful…

Dr. Steven D. Pearson, a visiting scientist in the ethics department at the National Institutes of Health, said the move by some societies to incorporate economic analysis “heralds an important shift in the way doctors in America are talking about cost and value.”

He said that having societies do such evaluations was better than having a doctor make such trade-offs while treating an individual patient, which is sometimes called bedside rationing…

Related blog postDo you know about the “Choosing Wisely Campaign …

1 thought on “Considering Cost in Treatment Choices

  1. Pingback: Why Are So Many “Low Value” Endoscopies Performed? | gutsandgrowth

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