Never heard or it? I certainly hadn’t until watching a marathon of the original Bob Newhart Show on the Hallmark Channel.
Latisse is a prime example of why America spends more on health care than any other country in the world while not having any improved outcomes to show for it. We aren’t healthier, we don’t live longer and we’re generally not any happier than people in other developed countries.
So what is Latisse? It’s a prescription drug to treat thin or insufficient lashes. Yes eye-lashes, those little hairs that emerge from the edge of your eye-lids. There are countless diseases that kill or disable hundreds of millions of people every year but I’ve never heard of anyone dying from thin eye-lashes.
So what? you might say, insurance companies probably don’t pay for it (mine doesn’t) so it’s not costing me anything. Despite patients paying for it out of pocket it still costs all of us.
We have limited financial and intellectual resources and developing new drugs typically costs well over $1 billion and occupies thousands of scientists. Even if we give Allergan, the company that makes Latisse, the benefit of the doubt and assume that Latisse was discovered by accident while looking for something actually useful, it still requires at least hundreds of millions of dollars and the time of FDA officials to run clinical trials before approvals. Those are resources that would be far better utilized elsewhere.
So why do we have drugs like Latisse on the market even though they don’t serve any useful purpose in improving human health? I think it’s because we allow companies to patent this stuff and then turn around and market directly to consumers on mass media. The entire fashion and cosmetics industry thrives on making women feel bad about the way they look. Drugs like this drive women to doctors to ask for these drugs, wasting the time of medical professionals and driving up costs for everyone.
As with most other modern drugs, the ads for Latisse outline a litany of potential side effects, any or all of which can lead to additional medical expenses. We have more than 50 million Americans without health insurance and yet we are squandering resources ridiculous drugs like Latisse.
One first step might be to require pharmaceutical companies to shoulder all of the costs of proving the safety of drugs like Latisse and Viagra that do nothing to improve health.
If we actually want to make any real progress on making health care more affordable while improving outcomes, we need to make changes to the drug patent system, get rid of direct to consumer advertising, refocus on health rather than cosmetic medicine.