Consider this scenario: An experimental Alzheimer’s drug fails two studies, but parsing the data shows the medicine may benefit a subgroup of patients with mild dementia. On that basis, the drug is approved and about 260,000 eligible patients are subsequently treated over the next four years.
Priced at $10,000 per person, the cost totaled roughly $10 billion during that time. To some, this would appear to be a bargain for a drug that combats a pernicious disease, yes? But what if it turns out the drug later failed yet another trial and patients with a mild form of Alzheimer’s weren’t helped, after all? The money —much of it spent by Medicare — would have been wasted and patients’ hopes dashed.