Focus on Pharma: Creating a Market for Disease Prevention


Should pharmaceutical companies be in the business of producing pills, or of making people well? The answer is both. Elvira Thissen argues that with diminishing returns in medicines it is time for pharma companies to move away from philosophical discussions on prevention and adapt to new realities instead.


The Business Case for Prevention

A recent report by The Vitality Institute – founded by South Africa’s largest health insurance company – estimates potential annual savings in the US of $217–303 billion on healthcare costs by 2023 if evidence-based approaches to NCD prevention are rolled out.

At an estimated global cost of illness of nearly US$1.4 trillion in 2010 for cardiovascular disease and diabetes alone, there is a market for prevention. In the UK, the NHS spends 10% of its budget on treating diabetes, 80% of which goes to managing (partly preventable) complications. Reducing disease incidence represents a considerable value to governments, insurance companies and employers.

Some sectors are already eyeing the value of this market.


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