Four Innovative Medical Products That Have Dropped in Price Over the Past Decade (or Two)

November 30, 2018

At-home Genetic Testing

23andme is pretty cool, offering reports on personal genomics that can tell you which carrier genes you have and the disease implications. When the company opened up shop in 2007, their service offered 14 reports for the stratospheric cost of $999. Now, the combined health and ancestry test offers 80 DNA-based reports for $199 (or $99 if you’re on the right website at the right time). Other competitors are also around, holding 23andMe’s feet to the fire to keep innovating and lowering costs.

In-vitro fertilization

In-vitro fertilization (IVF) prices are all over the place because the “basic” price doesn’t incorporate the cost of medications that go along with it. But since medications such as Follistim aren’t really beholden to market pressures the same way that the basic IVF cycle (think just the mechanical “birds and the bees”) is, we’ll just focus on the base price. A 2006 survey by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the average price for a basic cycle was $12,400. Certainly not cheap, but the sticker price hasn’t really changed over time, with data collector FertilityIQ reporting “generally flat” prices over time, and a rough midpoint range of $11,000 to $12,000 in 2016. Adjusting for inflation, that’s nearly a 20 percent decrease!

Blood Pressure Tests

Back in 2008, WebMD did a survey on different home blood pressure monitoring kits and concluded that the four best on the market were as follows: Omron’s Women’s Advanced Elite 7300W ($100), Microlife Delux Advanced 344534 ($90), Omron’s HEM-711AC ($90), and ReliOn HEM-741CREL from Wal-Mart ($40). Only the first two are still available on the market, with the cost of the Omron’s Women’s product falling from $100 to $90 and the Microlife product price dropping from $90 to $55. But because blood pressure tests are beholden to the market, we needn’t assume that the same companies will continue to offer the best products at the best prices. Since WebMD’s survey, for instance, Greater Goods has disrupted the market with their Bluetooth capable monitoring device retailing just shy of $39. How’s that for innovation?

Laser Eye Surgery

Last but not least is probably the most famous example of market forces at work in health-care, laser eye surgery. This outpatient procedure, meant to improve vision, is hardly covered by insurance like the above examples. In 2018 dollars, the cost went from around $2,400 per eye in 2000 to roughly $2200 per eye in 2017/18, a more than 8 percent decrease in inflation-adjusted terms. You can read all about the price cutting and competition here and here.

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Ross Marchand is a Catalyst Policy Fellow and the director of policy for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. He focuses on a range of issues, ranging from health-care reform to internet regulation to Postal Service-related issues. Ross is an alumnus of the Mercatus Center MA Fellowship at George Mason University, where he received his MA in economics in 2016. He has interned for the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council, analyzing and blogging on a variety of public policy issues.
Catalyst articles by Ross Marchand