Innovation in health care appears to be paradoxical: it provides simultaneously hope and fear. Hope to manage to tame at least temporarily disease and death; fear that innovation will raise the cost of health care up to a point where rationing becomes inevitable, where society as a whole can no longer afford medical progress for all. Drug therapy does not escape this paradox. At the same time, when examining new drugs, we marvel at technical exploits and worry about the financial burden of an ever more costly innovation process.
In many areas of the economy, technical progress means more effectiveness, more comfort at a lower price; technical progress carries the promise of the dissemination of its own benefits. In health care on the contrary, technical progress may signify, if we do not take care, exclusion, shortage and social regression. This is particularly true for drug markets which are characterized by an inflationist trend due to technical progress and especially - but not only - to the development of biotechnology. From a purely economic standpoint biotechnology products, although they are technically and industrially very different from traditional drugs, share the same problems than other innovative products. The relevant distinction for economists is rather between expensive innovative products and older still useful drugs, that are not submitted to the same economic mechanisms.
What are the symptoms of the inflationary disease? What are the causes? What are the solutions if they exist? These are the main points which will be discussed here.