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Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru September 07 , 2020
Pharmacoeconomics holds immense potential for India in the current times of the pandemic when there is need to compare costs of available drugs and therapies.

With an impending shortage of human resources, pharmacoeconomics is a promising field for pharmacists to specialize in. Going by the need to evaluate drug pricing and the costing of healthcare in India and globally too, creating a pool of experts specialized in this area will bridge the gap of this huge unmet need, said Ravi Iyer, director, global health and economics research, Teva Pharmaceuticals.

Healthcare expenditures are high and growing exponentially. Decision makers in healthcare need to make tough decisions. This is where pharmacoeconomics, which deals with the analysis of cost and the consequences of pharmaceuticals and related services on healthcare systems and patients, comes into the picture, he added.

These are studies that attempt to identify, measure and evaluate clinical, economic and human outcomes. During research, throughout the product cycle, pharmacoeconomics helps to develop the economic modeling frameworks for phase 3 clinical trials. It helps to understand the burden of illness on treatment patterns, besides assess the gaps in care and develop a cost-effective model. It provides real world comparative studies to help create a real-world economic modeling platform to devise a budget impact model, said Iyer at a webinar organized by the Karnataka Registered Pharmacists Association.

Speaking on the ‘Role of Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research in Drug Development and Beyond’, Iyer highlighted the cost-benefit, cost-effectiveness, cost- minimization, cost-of-illness and cost-utility analyses to compare pharmaceutical products and treatment strategies.

This branch of pharmaceuticals refers to the scientific discipline that compares the value of one pharmaceutical drug or therapy to another. It brings to the fore the need to measure the value of the product. This is because price and value are not the same, he said.

There has been extensive adoption of pharmacoeconomics during the HIV phase as a value driver to assess an efficient mix of interventions. These studies have provided a cost-effectiveness of drugs.

Pharmacoeconomics provides pharma companies a clear picture on whether to continue a drug in the market by analyzing its cost and effectiveness. Therefore, pharmacoeconomics is not about determining the cheapest healthcare alternatives, but it is about determining those alternatives that provide the best healthcare outcome for per monetary unit spent, said Iyer.

Sunil Chiplunkar, advisor, KRPA and vice president, business development, Group Pharmaceuticals, said that in pharmacoeconomics, there is scientific assessment of the cost and benefits of healthcare. There is also a comparison of value offered by one drug over another. Recently, ICMR has taken into consideration India's vast clinical experience with HCQ (hydroxychloroquine) not only in cases of malaria, but also in use for autoimmune disease including rheumatoid arthritis. During this pandemic, pharmacoeconomics helped in repurposing HCQ as a prophylactic to healthcare workers involved in COVID-19 care. Similarly, the use of simple antacids for elderly mild GERD patients makes pharmacoeconomic sense, since proton pump inhibitors are known to cause renal stress on long term use.

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