Will cheaper drugs prevent consumers from changing their behaviour?
The world is at a critical inflection point, where we live with rising levels of obesity and food poverty at the same time. A recent study by Tufts university highlighted how cardiometabolic diseases have risen significantly possibly owing to a rise in obesity that has increased three fold since 1975 (WHO).
In order to address this frightening statistic, more needs to be done to identify individuals who are at an increased risk of cardiometabolic conditions, increase access to personalised health care and provide reimbursement for long/term support that encourage the adoption of healthy behaviour. Let us not forget that 80% of chronic conditions are preventable and that our diet as a social determinant, contributes around 30% to our overall health, but will the availability of cheaper drugs defeat the objective of Personalised nutrition? we dig in, or you can listen to the article here.
The reason we asked this question was because we recently spotted two news articles that caught our attention. The first was the news by infamous entrepreneur billionnaire Mark Cuban who recently launched a low cost online pharmacy where they make over 800 generic drugs available at affordable prices.
The second one was from the state of California who are looking into building their factories to produce insulin.
It comes as no surprise that Cardiometabolic health is a hot topic as the economic health burden in the US glides easily into the $50 billion for drugs per year. A recent microsimulation study conducted at Brigham university however, found that the cost of a poor diet (described as the low intakes of foods such as fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and fish) costs around $301 per person per year which translates into 18.2% of the total annual healthcare costs of cardiometabolic diseases. In case you read that too fast, that is almost 20% of total cardiometabolic spend!!!! If we compare the weekly spend by drugs or by food this equates to $6 vs $0.80 on a poor diet per week. This means that if we could swop more people from using drugs to eating healthy, we could be saving tons!.
The importance of diet in the prevention of cardiometabolic diseases is hardly ever discussed and certainly no one will hit the headlines if they created an online shop selling fresh fruit and vegetables at low cost. However the reality is that a diet driven approach is in many cases, more or even equally as effective.
Helping people to change their behaviour to adopt healthier habits with regards to health, food and nutrition literacy costs way more than $301, in fact, a Phood script programme for at risk individuals costs $2400 per year, but leads to an estimated 80% in cost savings in the long term. Such a comprehensive programme would consist of 15 hours of nutrition and lifestyle education, 10 free nutritious meals and of course, access to a dietitian, without cutting out any middle persons.
Given a choice, we hypothesize that unmotivated individuals would opt for low-cost drugs simply because it is easier and it is positioned as available and affordable by all. But what if we positioned the low-cost drugs as "borrowed time" to wean off medication by offering a Phood script programme at the same time? What if we could help people to choose better, shop better, prepare better and reward them for sticking to the healthier lifestyles that would become new daily routines in the long-term and provide an opportunity to be free from drugs whilst improving quality of life through raising levels of self-efficacy?
We asked Behaviour change expert Professor Barbara Stewart-Knox from Bradford University (UK) for her opinion on the question. This is what she had to say:
"My initial thoughts are that this is not a threat to personalised dietary interventions. People who go for dietary therapies are probably anti drugs - unless prescribed and when absolutely necessary.
Bear in mind that drugs are subsidised (part of an insurance package) or free of charge at point of delivery (particularly for the over 60's) in most western countries.
The pandemic has alerted countries to the power of big pharma in global emergencies and the need to find alternative models for drug delivery."
We believe that we are at the start of a phenomenal mental shift into the role medication plays in our lives and health and who ultimately benefits. It is not realistic to think that we could get rid of drugs altogether, but we do have the opportunity to position a food as the first or complimentary approach when offering individuals low cost medication, the business case is clear.
So how about it Mark Cuban? can we add low-cost fruit, veg and nuts to the cart next?
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