Cures Or Treatments?

A reader raises an interesting question on healthcare:

I tend to agree that we should let the market drive innovation through rewarding solid research and groundbreaking results with profits that can feed further developments. What worries me is that when money is your motivator, what sort of research has a greater chance of being funded: a treatment, or a cure?

There isn't much to be gained, from a financial perspective, from a cure. Treatment, however, is a goldmine. Improving the quality of life for the sick is certainly a noble goal, but I fear that when money is the sole motivator then we will have executives deciding between pursuing a cure and pursuing treatment for symptoms - and choosing the latter every time.

Not that I'm suggesting socialized medicine would help - at least, not on its own. If the profit for drug research is slashed by government caps on prices, then it becomes a question of who picks up the financial slack and enables continued innovation?

If the government picks up this slack, perhaps they could have some say in the matter, drive decisions toward cures instead of treatments when possible. The government could save some cost when a cure replaces a treatment, so the motivation would be there. But this is all pure speculation on my part, so I'm turning to you and your readers to find out if current socialized systems see any such effects?

No idea. But I'm sure other readers can help. With HIV, the problem is the extreme elusiveness of a mutating retrovirus that makes a vaccine-cure close to impossible. The good side of treatments, moreover, is that they do reduce your viral load in most cases to a negligible level. That makes you much less infectious, which helps restrain the epidemic. And so a treatment becomes a prophylaxis.