Am I becoming a curmudgeon before my time? Or has the whole election thing got anyone else down? It shouldn’t, really; for the first time in a long while, we have not one but two intriguing candidates for president. But after 20 years of the uberpartisanship that has polarized the country and brought the nation’s business to a standstill, I’ve become convinced we need a multiparty system. The presence of three or four dynamic candidates, not just two, would force a discussion about real issues and move the national agenda forward. That would be much more productive than sniping about age and race and plagiarism and lipstick. The present system has devolved, perhaps irreparably, into a two-man mud wrestling event — entertaining but not meaningful. In a race against three others, you can’t take them all into the mud, because you’ll need the support of one or more of them later.
Healthcare is a legitimate issue, one of the few getting attention this fall. But all the campaign discourse seems to miss the mark. Providing affordable healthcare and better access to it are important but won’t be achieved until someone pays attention to the 800-pound gorilla in the room: Spending 15 to 20 percent of the gross domestic product on healthcare is unsustainable. Nobody wants to touch that one, either because it’s a political third rail, or because it can’t be solved before it’s time for a re-election campaign. Or both.
So, we’ve brought the discussion to you, because as one of the experts Lola Butcher interviewed for our cover story puts it, biologics may be the tipping point that forces politicians to address fundamental cost issues. The more we learn about disease — genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger — the more molecular medicine will become an essential part of many treatment regimens. Its cost will dictate that we use it carefully. Not through rationing, but through careful patient selection, adherence to best practices, and elimination of wasteful and ineffective care. If our healthcare system can learn to do this with biologics, it can learn to do this, period — enabling the affordable care and better access that the politicians say they can deliver. Four experts interviewed for our cover story talk about how the outcome of the election may factor in.
Now’s the time to act, because a reconciliation of costs and access is coming sooner than anyone wants to imagine. Want proof? Flip to page 8, look at how many biologics have reached phase 3 testing for an assortment of ailments, and judge for yourself. Targeted therapies are not just for cancer and a few esoteric illnesses any more. The tidal wave of biologics that experts say will hit our shores around 2010 is starting to swell right now.
Enjoy the issue.