Today's Debate: The high cost of prevention

Drug therapies, in our time, have replaced surgical miracles. They help people live longer. But that longevity has a price, a financial price, a rising price. What can be done about it?

Dr. Robert JarvikPictured here is Dr. Robert Jarvik. Two decades ago he was famous for inventing an artificial heart. Today he is known for selling Lipitor, a statin designed to prevent heart attack and stroke.

His personal story is matched by millions like my own.

I'm healthy. I have no personal history of disease. Unlike my two kids, I've never even broken a bone.

But my family has a history of high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Both can now be treated. At a price. I pay $70/month in co-pays for Diovan, Niaspan and simvastatin, a generic statin.

That's just what I pay. My wife's insurance company pays more, much more.

That's just part of it, of course. I go in to see my doctor every six months. He takes blood and we get it tested. This also costs money, and the co-pays are just a portion of that cost.

All this is preventative. The hope is I won't suffer from a heart attack, as my father first did when he was 4 years younger than I am now. But there is no guarantee.

Thanks to great new medicines the cost of prevention has continued to rise, and will continue to rise. There are ways to reduce those costs, at the margin, but over time those costs will continue to rise.

It's in the nature of modern medicine. Drug therapies, in our time, have replaced surgical miracles. They help people live longer. But that longevity has a price, a financial price, a rising price.

What can be done about it?