Public Policy

Policymakers must invest in health care innovation

Affordable pharma tops consumer list


In 2017, the United States spent $3.5 trillion on health care, and that number is projected to be close 20% of our GDP over the next 10 years. For consumers, prescription drugs feel like the biggest contributor.

“Although pharmaceutical spending accounts for less than 10% of health care spending, consumers bear much more of the out-of-pocket cost of the prescription drugs through copays or coinsurance at the pharmacy counter than they pay for hospital or physician costs,” said Tanisha Carino, PhD, author of a Health Affairs blog post about directions for innovation in health care. “This experience has led to rising concerns among Americans about the cost of prescription drugs.”

In fact, a December 2018 Politico-Harvard poll showed Americans from both political parties overwhelmingly agreed that taking action to lower drug prices should have been the top priority of the new Congress that took office in January of this year.

“Addressing the affordability of prescription drugs will require investing in medical research and policies that speed new products to the market that will promote competition and, hopefully, will hold down prices and offer greater choice to patients,” said Dr. Carino, who is executive director of FasterCures, a center of the Milken Institute devoted to improving the biomedical innovation ecosystem. “Policymakers have an opportunity to address the immediate concerns patients have in affording their medication.”

According to Dr. Carino, policymakers can also continue to encourage health-improving medical innovation through the following:

  • Boosting investment in research and development.
  • Increasing safety and coordination of health data for biomedical research.
  • Incentivizing innovation in underinvested areas.
  • Building the capacity of patient organizations.

Hospitalists, she added, will play a critical role in participating in the clinical research that will lead to the next generation of treatments.


1. Carino T. “To get more bang for your health-care buck, invest in innovation.” Health Affairs Blog. 2019 Jan 24. doi: 10.1377/hblog20190123.483080. Accessed Feb. 6, 2019.

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