Science news articles have been reporting on the pharmaceutical industry and the high cost of prescription drugs.
Some good research paper topics are to discuss new technological developments from the drug companies, and pro and con debates about the rise in drug costs.
Microchip in schizophrenia drug
A term paper topic could be to report on advances in pharmaceuticals. In a new development in drug delivery and monitoring called “digital pills,” Otsuka Pharmaceuticals has designed a microchip inside their Abilify pill that, when ingested, sends signals to a computer that alerts a doctor that the patient has indeed taken the pill. As patients often forget to take their medication, the chip inside the pill lets doctors know that their patients are complying with medication regimens. The aim is to improve patient outcome, monitor vital signs, reduce symptoms and obtain other patient information. Patients with mental illness, Alzheimer’s, bipolar disorder, depression and other conditions could benefit.
Digital chip for clinical trials
You could also write about the various uses for chips in pharmaceuticals. The digital chip could also be used for clinical trials and new drug development. Trevor Jones, a UK pharmaceuticals industry veteran and expert in clinical trials, said, “If you have an elderly person on a clinical trial and you ask her to take a pill for three months you cannot be sure that she has taken it every day. She might not admit it if she hasn’t because she doesn’t want to get in trouble with the doctor,” reported Andrew Ward in “US regulators accept ‘chip in a pill’ application,” posted September 10, 2015, in Financial Times.
Price gouging for pharmaceuticals
Not all developments in the pharmaceutical industry are advantageous. A current topic to write about is the skyrocketing price of drugs in America. A recent case that brought this issue to light was the outrageously brazen 5500% increase in the price of AIDS drug Daraprim. Turing Pharmaceuticals’ 32-year-old CEO Martin Shkreli bought the rights to the generic drug, then overnight raised the price of one pill from $13.50 to $750. Shkreli says the price increase is to recoup the investment in the drug and to benefit stakeholders.
Around the world, the news received harsh criticism and reinvigorated the debate of runaway drug costs. The situation has people like Dr. Peter Bach, director of the Center for Health Policy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, lamenting that Shkreli raised the drug price just because he could. Bach said, “I think it reflects a widespread appreciation that pricing for drugs is entirely irrational in this country, and the pharmaceutical industry has total control over prices and there’s no rationality to the system,” reported Carolyn Y. Johnson in “Drug’s Pricing Proves a Defining Moment in Modern Health Care,” posted in Washington Post September 27, 2015.
Drug price restriction debate
A great topic for a term paper is to discuss the pros and cons of high drug prices. Most countries around the world restrict the price drug companies can charge, while the United States does not. On the pro side, Darius Lakdawalla, professor of pharmaceutical development at the University of Southern California, said that drug price controls would not save much money, and that the money lost to drug companies from high prices would stifle innovation and development. “Our research shows that when prices fall, innovation falls even more. Patients would see their lives cut short by delayed or absent drugs,” he said in “Drug Price Controls End Up Costing Patients Their Health” in New York Times September 23, 2015.
On the con side, Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, explained that the pharmaceutical industry is a distorted market—a free market does not allow the price of goods to rise 5500% overnight. As for price restriction, Bernstein said in “Drug Price Controls Are Vital in a Market That’s Not Free” in New York Times September 23, 2015: “The producers argue that this will stifle their incentive to innovate. But the evidence is increasingly clear that we cannot count on the private sector to make necessary medicines affordable. In fact, given the incentive structure, neither can we count on private drug companies to develop the drugs we most need versus the ones that will be most profitable.”
For more information, check out Questia’s library on the Pharmaceutical Industry.
Do you think there should be a price cap on pharmaceutical drugs?