Ability of healthcare systems to finance last resort treatments

I mentioned cancer immunotherapy as an alternative to chemotherapy earlier. However, the approach is more commonly used as both a frontline and last resort treatment for cancers recalcitrant to conventional treatments such as chemotherapy. As a new approach to treating cancers and many of the drugs protected by patents, cancer immunotherapy is very expensive and unaffordable to many. Thus, how can society provide for such essential and last resort treatments through the national healthcare system, which is funded by taxpayers’ contributions? How much do we subsidize such essential and expensive last line treatments for acute diseases? And, if at the national level, the cost of providing such treatments is great, how do we finance it through taxes? More broadly, how do we classify drugs and treatment options as subsidized and non subsidized? On a personal basis, these are deep questions that society need to address independent of the possible drain on taxpayers’ resources. In essence, returning to the oath of medicine: providing treatment before assessing the ability to pay.

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