That extra bit of every eye drop that always rolls down a patient’s cheek says a lot about the problem of waste in the pharmaceutical industry. As it turns out, some of the medicine is supposed to get wiped away, because the bottle releases drops that are too big for the human eye.
It isn’t just eye-drop makers that are gaming consumers. According to a recent report on medical waste published by ProPublica, the problem exists with several liquid medications and costs American consumers an exorbitant amount every year.
Here’s a look at the issue, by the numbers:
7 microliters = The maximum amount of fluid an eye can absorb from a drop.
25-56 microliters = The average size of droppers on the market today.
16 microliters = The size of a “microdrop” developed by researchers in the 1990s (scientists and drug companies have known about this problem). Glaucoma patients in the study were able to receive the amount of medication needed even though the drop is about half the size of what’s on the market now. However, companies failed to act on the findings and sell the medicines with a smaller drop size.
$3.4 billion = The amount made by drug companies on eye drops for glaucoma and dry eyes last year, according to Market Scope.
10 percent = The amount of medicine wasted administering the top 20 liquide cancer drugs in single-use vials, according to a study from last year. When the medicine was packaged in sharable vials, less of it was wasted. But more than 10 years ago, drug companies began switching to single-use vials, citing supply chain concerns. Now, if a patient with a smaller body weight doesn’t need the whole dose, the rest goes in the trash.
$1.8 billion = Wasted per year by companies switching to single-use vials for the top liquid cancer drugs.
Double = The increase in a person’s chances of going bankrupt after being diagnosed with cancer. Spending money on wasted drugs increases the cost borne by patients.