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Medical nanotechnology: the obstacles hampering a future dominant market

Hasselt University, Department of Applied Economics, Martelarenlaan 42, BE3500, Hasselt, Belgium 


Nanomedicine, the application of nanotechnology in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases, takes advantage of materials on the nanometer scale. Although business experts find it difficult to estimate the volume and growth rate of the nanomedicine market, it is expected to grow significantly in the next decade. Despite nanotherapeutics have promising expectations for the future of healthcare, some impediments blocking their success have to be removed: consumer as well as physician distrust, ineffective regulation of new and generic products, insurance market failure, weak patent protection and a low interest by big pharma due to their high acquisition cost. However, to assess the total cost of nanodrugs, all direct and indirect costs of treatment as well as health effects should be included.

Health care costs are spiraling and are a great concern for policy makers and health administrators worldwide (1). New therapies are often expensive and thus major cost drivers for society. Since national resources are scarce, it is important to assess whether there is a future for expensive medical technologies. Therefore, policy makers are required to assess whether new therapies offer a greater economic value than older ones (2). This requires a clear understanding of the cost-effectiveness of treatment options. Cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) is a tool for selecting among competing health care interventions whenever resources are limited. In turn, it allows the most efficient allocation of the limited resources while maximizing health effects at the lowest cost (1).
One of these emerging technologies is nanotechnology. It is: “The intentional design, characterization, production, and application of materials, structures, devices, and systems by controlling their size and shape in the nanoscale range (1-100nm)” (3). Nanomedicine uses nanotechnology for applications to the clinical arena. At present, the high acquisition cos ...

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