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When thinking of the development of medicines, and who these should be targeted towards, most people think of those who are already ill. But what if people would fund the development of medicines they might require in the future, and which aren’t already readily available? For example, those with a family member suffering with a rare genetic condition, or those whose lifestyle puts them at a greater risk of being diagnosed later in life with something currently incurable.

In the late 80s the development of life-saving, antiretroviral drugs, knows as HAART, changed the fight against HIV. The surprising factor was when even uninfected people began requesting the drugs out of fear of becoming infected in the future.

In a similar fashion, vaccinations are given to prevent people developing common conditions, such as measles or the flu. In both cases, these people are not yet sick but are interested in preventing themselves becoming susceptible to illness.

“Companies are inclined to make drugs for the diseases that make the largest number of people sick,” stated Nicholas W. Papageorge, assistant professor of economics at John Hopkins University. But what about those who would be willing to pay a lot for the option of having a drug to treat a less common condition should they need it?

Should healthcare communication agencies be trying a new tactic in their advertising to encourage these people willing to help fund the discovery and development of drugs for less common illnesses to come forward? Of course, this is something less likely to occur in countries which offer a free health service, but there is a current school of thought with regards to a “hidden demand” for underdeveloped drugs to be targeted at people who think they may require them in the future. These people will not only be helping themselves but also those already suffering with rare conditions but are unable to fund their own drug discovery.

“Anytime there’s a disease where people suspect there’s some probability they might get it, they would be willing to pay to find a treatment,” claimed Papageorge. “I would be willing to pay for an Alzheimer’s drug or dementia drug or maybe something for colon cancer because there’s a change I might one day need it.”

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