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    So many medications, so little access

    Three decades ago, when I began my dermatology residency, I learned to prescribe a variety of medications for a wide spectrum of skin diseases. Very few of these carried FDA-labelling to support safety and efficacy for the condition and age of the patient who used them. And access to the medication was rarely denied.

    The past decade has brought tremendous innovation to medical dermatology and miraculous new treatment options to patients with formerly devastating diseases. But prescribing these medications is easier said than done, with good reason.

    None of my patients can afford to pay the retail price of even the least expensive of patent-protected drugs, and the cost of treatment with a biologic agent would bankrupt all but the very wealthiest of Americans. Yet new drugs and biologic agents are coming to market at a rapidly increasing rate, and significant minority of people in the US would probably benefit from using one. But even our prosperous country could not support the cost of unrestricted access to these ground-breaking agents.

    Why are drugs so expensive? It’s complicated. Who is profiting?  Not just "Big Pharma". Is there a solution to this problem? Only if everyone is willing to pay their fair share.

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    NEXT: The cost of drugs

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    Elaine Siegfried, M.D.
    Elaine Siegfried, M.D., is professor of pediatrics and dermatology, Saint Louis University Health Sciences Center, St. Louis, Mo. She ...

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