How drug companies make you buy more medicine than you need



if you've ever tried to use eye drops you know it's hard to do without some of it rolling down your cheek I used to think that was because I missed but it turns out I'm not actually so bad at this well most of the time anyway hi drops run down our faces because a typical drop is larger than what the human eye can physically contain some are more than twice what the eye can hold that means using a single eye drop is like pouring water into a glass that's already full or it's like in those clear eyes commercials it's incredibly wasteful to make oversized drops they cost a lot of money the waste from each one is like a tiny snowflake it's easy to overlook until they've piled up into a billion dollar snowball it's wasted medicine and all of us are paying for it eyedrops they may all seem alike but the eyedrops industry is huge they're sold by volume and some can cost hundreds of dollars for a small bottle that only lasts a month the financial cost is a particular problem for the millions of patients with chronic conditions that require expensive drops every day last year US drug companies brought in about 3.4 billion dollars for dry eyes and glaucoma drops alone eyedrops are our cue before our eyes that's dr. Alan Robin an ophthalmologist and glaucoma expert who teaches at Johns Hopkins Medicine it's very wasteful we see that patients are basically spending twice as much money as they need to on dropt everyone's body is different but experts say almost every eye drop on the market is larger than the eye can hold so the excess just washes out and we end up paying for a lot more medications than we can use wasted eyedrops are part of a much bigger problem experts estimate that the US healthcare system wastes 765 million dollars a year that's about a quarter of our overall spending and it's actually more than the entire budget of the Department of Defense ProPublica has been investigating the kind of wasted healthcare spending that exists right in front of our eyes literally cancer drugs are also a big-ticket waste item they can cost thousands of dollars per infusion but are frequently wasted just because of the way they're packaged most cancer drugs are infused based on body size so patients need different amounts but most of them come in single-use vials that can be much too large for an individual patient so once the patient gets the needed dose the rest of the expensive drug and the bow is thrown out drug prices driving patients and their families into bankruptcy that on top of patients paying for expensive cancer drugs to help them they're also paying for in some cases a lot of extra cancer drug that's just going in the trash that's dr. Peter Bock the director of the Center for Health Policy and outcomes at Memorial sloan-kettering Cancer Center in New York waste hurts people because it costs money if you waste half of a vial that costs $5,000 somebody is paying that money $2,500 back to the drug company and it's the drug company benefits because they count that it as revenue or profit take the case of Herceptin a popular and pricy drug that's mostly used to treat breast cancer the drug company used to make vials that patients could share so little of the drug would be wasted but then it announced in May that the shareable vials would be replaced by single-use vials and the switch would mean throwing away any medication left over from an infusion and billing the patient for the waste Genentech the company that makes Herceptin told me that they had to make the change for supply chain reasons to go to a size that's more common worldwide every milligram of Herceptin costs about nine dollars so a cancer patients monthly infusion can run more than three thousand dollars one administrator at a California cancer treatment center calculated her average patient would waste a hundred and ten milligrams per infusion with the single-use vials that's an average of almost $1,000 of wasted spending per infusion the waste associated with oversized cancer drug vials is substantial a study led by dr. Bach in 2016 calculated the waste with the top 20 cancer drugs packaged in single-use vials it estimated that 10% of the medication gets wasted costing 1.8 billion dollars in a single year but here's the thing this is a waste problem that's fixable for cancer drugs manufacturing shareable vials or vials and varying sizes are proven ways to reduce waste for eyedrops why not just make the drop smaller dr. Robin knows it can be done because he and a team of experts already did it in a study about 20 years ago he consulted with global I care leader al Khan when its researchers developed what they call a micro drop for patients with glaucoma it was a 16 micro litre drop one that was half to a third of the size of most drops on the market today then they studied the performance of the micro drop compared to regular sized drops there was no significant difference between the smaller and larger eye drops not only were the micro drops just as effective they also reduce some of the uncomfortable side effects and all the participants actually preferred the micro draw bottle but instead of being a breakthrough the innovation became a case study and how profits can come before patients I tried personally to get the micro job accepted and they looked at me as though I was a pariah the pharmaceutical company would be losing at the money that they could be making officials from Novartis the drug company that now owns Alcon declined to discuss their micro drop study they said eyedrops are designed with a margin of safety to help patients but they wouldn't go into specifics you think that regulators would care about all this wasted medicine but the FDA regulates the safety and effectiveness of a drug not its price or the cost related to waste patience paying billions of dollars for wasted medicine is just one more reason America has the highest health care costs in the world hi guys I'm run Jenny a video fellow working at Vox and ProPublica and this video is part of the new collaboration between our news rooms for the full story at ProPublica check out the link down below and stay tuned for more stories coming this year

27 comments

  1. Well the only way to solve the problem of eye drops is to pour it side ways in the corner of the eye. I always do that. Never goes waste. Basically when you do that it will eventually spread in the eyes. Since it's a liquid

  2. As a Brit, the US is so mad! From what I hear, the US is the most third-world first-world country I've ever seen. I don't care if the US has the highest GDP or largest military; I think countries should out less effort into trying to be an empire and just make the citizens of your country be healthier, feel better and live comfortable.

    I'm sot saying the UK is perfect, but we have:
    – Universal free healthcare
    – No gun(s) allowed
    – No gerrymandering
    – No (biased) supreme court

  3. I never understand the medical industry/field. I've always known it to be wasteful but you cant really do anything about it cause you need to treatment or medicine. I dont see how people can claim they love helping people be healthy but then charge so much money to help them. Medical field us a big scam

  4. Get a syringe. Put in the right amount for you. I NEVER buy eye drops otc. There's lots of diy natural solutions you can make yourself.

  5. Drink more water and eat better. May not fix everyone but I can fix people that have dry eyes from malnutrition. And that’s a lot more than we even know.

  6. Is this as big a problem in countries with socialised medicine? The NHS here in the UK is always trying to cut corners, so i can't see them standing by and letting this kind of waste eat into their budget?

  7. Another Startup idea: a company that allows patients who order cancer meds and have left over meds to sale (at a greatly reduced rate) their meds to other patients seeking the same meds. It would be an amazon type company: gets the remaining drug from the patients doctor store it and ship it to the other patients doctor for use. Kind of a medicine share club. Medshare! Sounds great to me but I’m sure some greedy fuc$ing billionaire would create the company and charge excess fees to use it. 😢😢

  8. Anyone who thinks healthcare should be private is actually evil, can you imagine thinking that cancer patients should have to pay for medicine that gets thrown away. Capitalism needs to be stopped.

  9. truly speaking, us drug companies can be evil because government let it, why government let it because they afraid if they too tough with them,they will stop innovation that needed by US citizen. so if that the case, so US people, what is your idea of solution ? let the government know to make change.

  10. You can't calculate waste that way. The actual cost of the content is never 100% of the price. Its usually more like 30% most of the price is to cover years of R&D + shipping advertising etc + profit. If you reduce the size of any product by 50% you'd usually save 10-25% of its value. So there is a waste there but its not as significant as this video claims. Thats why when drugs loose the patent the new generic drug that is produced with out the need in the RD is usually 25-30% of the price of original drug. The price has little to do with the actual content.

  11. Just avoid getting sick at all costs. Spend your money on organic foods and wholistic treatments. Remove potential toxins from your life as best you can and anything that is linked to cancer – makeup, microwaves, antiperspirants, nail polish, air fresheners, household cleaners, teflon, perfumes, pesticides, processed meats, etc. You can't be too cautious. Big Pharma and the FDA are not in business to help you. You have to help yourself.

  12. This is why you need government regulation and government to step into stupid profit-making tactics like this. This is where the US falls far behind compared to other developed Nations where government isn't played like puppets by these large corporations.

  13. So shouldn’t there be something for medicine specifically like the better business bureau? Something that regulates this so that much medicine isn’t being wasted ? ?

  14. If its bigger than your eye one drop should cover the whole eye so you dont have to keep squirting it out and risking a reaction.. right?

Leave a Reply

(*) Required, Your email will not be published