Unsustainable

Unsustainable

Health Affairs

This picture shows changes in the cost of treating colon cancer, from 1993-2005. It shows unsustainable growth in these expenditures:

By unsustainable, however, I do not mean unjustifiable. Patients with colon cancer have much better prognoses in 2005 than 1993, in large part due to advances in chemotherapy. Instead what I mean by unsustainable is that the rate of growth in spending can’t continue.

If we continue to grow at this rate, we will overwhelm our ability to pay for such care, even if the care continues to improve. We must keep the unsustainability of the spending trend in mind when we set expectations of pharmaceutical executives – and what we look for in the growth of their annual earnings.

We should keep this unsustainability in mind, also, when remembering that healthcare spending threatens the financial stability of governments, corporations, and individual citizens. We should celebrate improvement in treatment for diseases like colon cancer. But we should remember that at some point in time, spending more on such patients, even if it improves their health, might be beyond our means.

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