Big Pharma would hate this simple solution to curbing $3 billion wasted per year on expensive medicines

pharma-drug-waste-moneyDid you know that the United States throws away $3 billion worth of perfectly good, unused cancer drugs annually—because they’re left over in large single-dose, one-size-fits-all vials and containers?

That’s the conclusion in a recent study by the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. As a result, every year Americans spend $1.8 billion on wasted medicines and $1 billion more on the markups over the sticker prices. As explained by a Fiscal Times article printed by Business Insider, it doesn’t have to be this way:

In contrast to industry practices in Europe, where drugs are often sold in packages of varying sizes to meet specific needs, U.S. drug manufacturers generally follow a one-size-fits all approach that leads to extraordinary waste. As much as a third of the medicine in a vial is often discarded by nurses or doctors, or in rare instances used in the treatment of other patients.

It’s not a secret why the wasteful practice exists: it generates immense profits for Big Pharma, and we let industry get away with it. One of the authors of the study, Dr. Peter B. Bach, commented to The New York Times that “[d]rug companies are quietly making billions forcing little old ladies to buy enough medicine to treat football players, and regulators have completely missed it. If we’re ever going to start saving money in health care, this is an obvious place to cut.”

That’s an obvious solution that American policymakers should heed, starting with greater advocacy and regulatory pressure on drug manufacturers through the Food and Drug Administration. For more information, see “Overspending driven by oversized single dose vials of cancer drugs,” BMJ (2016); “Waste in Cancer Drugs Costs $3 Billion a Year, a Study Says,” The New York Times (2016); and “America wastes $3 billion of expensive drugs each year,” Fiscal Times (2016).