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Letters to the Editor: Patient Data Could Lead to Scientific Insights
We don’t normally carry letters to the editor, but since this particular letter replies to an op-ed we hilighted last week (Henry Miller, “The Curse of Too Much Caution, The Wall Street Journal) and is particularly interesting, we’ll make an exception. Mr. Gottlieb argues that right now, “there is plenty of incentive in the market...to look harder at the pros and cons of new drugs”. However, health insurers are trying to foist off responsibility for collecting this information onto the government, arguing that “if insurers generated studies showing that a certain drug doesn’t work well, or has certain side-effects, or is overused, then nobody will believe the results.” A more likely reason is that insurers don’t want to become inadvertent marketers for the pharmaceutical industry, or surrender control over their drug formularies to patients’ groups using their own studies against them.
The solution Mr. Gottlieb proposes is to “[provide] more pathways for practical data collected from these real patient experiences to be used for things like drug label changes inside the FDA and quick payment decisions by Medicare”, or even for new drug indications that would speed a drug or biotech company’s access to a new source of revenue. “That would align everyone’s incentives, insurers and drug developers alike, to work harder to learn more about new technologies more quickly after they are approved rather than waiting many years for veiled truths to emerge.”
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