Among the more striking conclusions of the WHO posting is that a quarter of the more than $4 trillion spent globally on health services every year (including some $750 billion on pharmaceuticals) —a full trillion dollars—is lost to corruption. Much of this corruption goes unreported, the WHO document claims, out of fear of victimization and retaliation coupled with a lack of incentives for whistle-blowers. Such corrupt and unethical practices reduce the availability of drugs and quality healthcare to patients. Countries with higher incidences of corruption also experience higher child mortality rates.
Overall, these statistics suggest that, theoretically, healthcare costs could be cut dramatically around the world by reducing inefficiency and corruption—easier said than done. Also, healthcare around the world might improve significantly if annual spend were readjusted globally so that more people could have access to the $1000 per year that seems to push life expectancy into the upper reaches. At any rate, these statistics indicate that the US may be able to spend a lot less on our health than we now do with no reduction in life expectancy.
If the past decade has taught us anything, it's that resources—natural or manmade—are not infinite. Hopefully, the next decade will find us chastened, wiser, and better able to make judicious use of our medical and healthcare resources.
Michelle Hoffman is editor-in-chief of Pharmaceutical Technology. Send your thoughts and story ideas to [email protected]