The surprising news made headlines in December 2002. Generic pills for high blood pressure, which had been in use since the 1950s and cost only pennies a day, worked better than newer drugs that were up to 20 times as expensive.
The findings, from one of the biggest clinical trials ever organized by the federal government, promised to save the nation billions of dollars in treating the tens of millions of Americans with hypertension — even if the conclusions did seem to threaten pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer that were making big money on blockbuster hypertension drugs.
Six years later, though, the use of the inexpensive pills, called diuretics, is far smaller than some of the trial’s organizers had hoped.
The biggest problem in the way health care is done in America is that consumers generally have no incentive to watch costs. To be sure, some people still argue that diuretics are not as effective as the new drugs as the article above points out. But the bottom line is that they are both pretty close in effectiveness and yet one cost 20 times as much as the other. Even granting that the new drugs are better, one has to wonder if it is worth paying 20 times more for a marginal improvement in effectiveness.