How Much is a Life Worth?

BLESSINGS PIONEERS NEW “HUMAN TREATMENT VALUE” SYSTEM FOR MEDICINES.

How Much is a Life Worth?
Blessings pioneers new “Human Treatment Value” system for medicines.

When you swallow a tablet, receive an injection, or spread an ointment on a wound, how much is it worth to you? If it saves your life, you would probably say the worth is beyond calculation. If a medicine can prevent an outbreak of disease from affecting you, or keep an existing condition under control, it would likely be worth more than “its weight in gold” to you.

But exactly how should that value be determined?

Historically, pharmaceutical companies usually set the value of drugs on the open market. Certainly, they have real costs: research, development and testing, raw materials, manufacturing, marketing, and distribution.

But after those costs are included, what should the markup be? How much is fair? What should the final price be?
For years, Blessings and other non-profit medicine distribution organizations have used an industry-standard called the Average Wholesale Price (AWP) for valuing medicines. The AWP for most medicine is listed in a book printed by a group called Thomson Medical Economics (now Thomson Reuters) and it includes values for nearly every manufactured drug.

But over the years many groups, including Blessings International, have felt the AWP values are somewhat arbitrary and often too high. Across the industry, groups are starting to not use AWP, but have struggled to find a suitable replacement system.

So in the spring of 2012, Blessings International started listing the values of all the medicines it ships under a new “Human Treatment Value” or HTV classification developed by the ministry. The HTV is measured in two ways: Curative Treatments and Treatment Days. A total amount for both categories is now included in every invoice for the medicine that B.I. ships.

“Teams that get their medicines from Blessings International need to have a way to establish the value of the medicines they order,” says Harold Harder, Ph.D., President of Blessings International and a former research pharmacologist. ‘Curative Treatment” value is the number of tablets needed to achieve a cure. For some medicines, this could be one tablet. Many treatments require multiple pills delivered over days or weeks to achieve a cure. For example, a curative treatment with the antibiotic Azithromycin requires 6 tablets. Therefore a bottle of Azithromycin containing 250 tablets has an HTV of 21.67 curative treatments. In contrast, a therapy of using amoxicillin requires 40 capsules. Accordingly, a bottle of amoxicillin containing 1000 capsules has an HTV of 25 curative treatments.

‘Treatment Days’ is our term to describe the number of days in which a certain amount of medicine will treat a chronic or ongoing condition. For example, if a high blood pressure treatment requires two pills a day to keep the condition under control then a bottle of 1000 tablets of this antihypertensive medicine would have an HTV of 500 Treatment Days.”

B.I. recently sent a shipment of medicine to a team traveling to Peru which had a total Human Treatment Value of 115,640 Treatment Days and 11,124 Curative Treatments. The sum of these numbers, 126,764, is the HTV of their shipment. At Blessings discounted prices, the team only paid $8,500 for the medicine. The HTV shows the true significance of the order both to the church or team that raised the funds and to the people in Peru who were the final recipients of the medicine. To put it another way, each dollar spent on medicine had an HTV of 14.9 (126,764 ÷ 8,500).

By valuing the pharmaceuticals Blessings ships in this manner, donors will be able to more clearly see the impact of every dollar they give to help teams travel the world with life-saving medicines.
Dr. Harder adds, “People are always wondering about the impact of each dollar spent. The HTV is a measure of human significance of a shipment of medicines. Dividing the HTV by the cost of the shipment provides every team with a measure of the bang (HTV) for every buck spent. We truly hope this helps teams in their fundraising efforts for this is the reason the HTV was developed.”