ASH Clinical News: What’s a Life Worth and Who Gets to Decide?

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For the March cover article of its ASH Clinical News magazine, the American Society of Hematology dove into the weighty topic of “What’s a Life Worth and Who Gets to Decide?” Despite the provocatively misleading headline (cost-effectiveness analyses measure the benefit of a medicine, not the worthiness of a life), the article serves as a terrific explainer about why the entire US medical establishment is more mindful than ever about the need for cost-effectiveness research, and how ICER’s assessments are already being used to encourage not only fair drug pricing, but fair patient access too. ICER’s President Steve Pearson states:

“We are benefiting from a rich pipeline of innovative and wonderful new medications. The challenge is finding that sweet spot where we maintain access and affordability for individual patients and for the health-care system — because we will never have unlimited resources to spend on health — but also incentivize innovation and keep that pipeline flowing…. The real goal here is to use economic evaluations of cost-benefit or cost-effectiveness as a negotiating tool, especially where there’s limited competition. We’re not talking about rationing, but about providing a rational basis for pricing.”