The US Throws Away $3 Billion Worth of Cancer Drugs A Year

“You already know you pay too much for prescription medication. But a new study by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center reveals one simple factor that may be contributing to high costs: Waste.

“According to the new study, published Tuesday inBMJ, as much as $3 billion worth of cancer drugs is thrown away every year, unused. The reason why is drug manufacturers package single dose vials that contain more medicine than needed so that leftover medication is simply thrown away. As the authors, which includes Peter Bach, director of MSK’s Center for Health Policy and Outcomes, note:

” ‘These drugs must be either administered or discarded once open, and because patients’ body sizes are unlikely to match the amount of drug included in the vial, there is nearly always some left over. The leftover drug still has to be paid for, even when discarded, making it possible for drug companies to artificially increase the amount of drug they sell per treated patient by increasing the amount in each single dose vial relative to the typically required dose.’ “


An 'Utterly Broken' Drug Market: The High Cost of Surviving Cancer

“Lauren Baumann is one of the lucky ones.

“Though she has cancer, chronic myeloid leukemia, it is manageable, as long as she takes a daily pill called Gleevec. Gleevec is considered a wonder drug, turning Lauren’s leukemia from a death sentence to a disease she and thousands of others can live with. The problem is, even with health insurance and a full-time job, Lauren can’t afford the monthly co-pay for Gleevec. It can be as high as $2,000 a month — twice the average mortgage payment in the U.S.

” ‘I feel like you get punished,’ says Baumann. ‘I didn’t ask to get cancer; I didn’t ask to get sick. I was 26 and I was perfectly healthy.’ “


How Crowdfunding Helps Patients Deal with the High Cost of Cancer Care

“Cancer is not just a physically devastating diagnosis, it can be a very expensive one. Cancer patients are more than 2 and half times more likely to go bankrupt than people without cancer.

“And the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center says young cancer patients have 2 to 5 times high bankruptcy rates than those 65 and older. Those numbers are why more and more patients and families facing cancer are turning to crowdfunding to help pay their bills. The internet is making it possible for these people to tap into the kindness of strangers and friends to help them in truly desperate times.

“At the start of May, 32-year-old Meghan Morgan was occupied with all the concerns of a single mom. Juggling the dog walking business she owns, Portland Pups, an unreliable truck and raising 13 month old Henry. Now at the beginning of June, she is overwhelmed. Henry is spending his third week in the hospital, diagnosed with a rare type of inoperable cancer called neuroblastoma.”


Cancer Is Getting More Expensive, Forcing Doctors to Take Notice

“Gale Tickner doesn’t even know how much money she owes these days — it could be $100,000, it could be $200,000. With every surgery or unexpected complication, the medical bills for her cancer treatment keep piling up.

“Tickner has health insurance, but the numerous copayments for her hospital visits, procedures and drugs over the past year and a half have made her treatment a financial burden.

“ ‘We’re just going to take it a day at a time to pay what we can, when we can,’ she said.

“The rising cost of care is a source of growing alarm — and not just for patients. It will be a subject of debate at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago this weekend, where doctors are examining new ways to package cancer treatment to make it more affordable.”


ASCO: Many Cancer Patients Interested in Genetic Profiling

“Many patients with cancer are interested in comprehensive tumor genetic profiling (CGP), and most are willing to pay out-of-pocket costs for CGP, according to a study scheduled for presentation at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, to be held from May 29 to June 2 in Chicago.

“Julie Innocent, M.D., from the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, and colleagues recruited 88 patients of diverse cancer histology to complete a survey in order to explore patient interest and willingness to pay out of pocket for CGP. The researchers specifically examined interest in CGP only if covered by insurance versus interest conditional on paying an out-of-pocket cost.”


Oncologists Reveal Reasons for High Cost of Cancer Drugs in U.S.

“Increasingly high prices for cancer drugs are affecting patient care in the U.S. and the American health care system overall, say the authors of a special article published online in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

” ‘Americans with cancer pay 50 percent to 100 percent more for the same patented drug than patients in other countries,’ says S. Vincent Rajkumar, M.D., of Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, who is one of the authors. ‘As oncologists we have a moral obligation to advocate for affordable cancer drugs for our patients.’

“Dr. Rajkumar and his colleague, Hagop Kantarjian, M.D., of MD Anderson Cancer Center, say the average price of cancer drugs for about a year of therapy increased from $5,000 to $10,000 before 2000 to more than $100,000 by 2012. Over nearly the same period the average household income in the U.S. decreased by about 8 percent.

“In the paper, the authors rebut the major arguments the pharmaceutical industry uses to justify the high price of cancer drugs, namely, the expense of conducting research and drug development, the comparative benefits to patients, that market forces will settle prices to reasonable levels, and that price controls on cancer drugs will stifle innovation.

” ‘One of the facts that people do not realize is that cancer drugs for the most part are not operating under a free market economy,’ says Dr. Rajkumar. ‘The fact that there are five approved drugs to treat an incurable cancer does not mean there is competition. Typically, the standard of care is that each drug is used sequentially or in combination, so that each new drug represents a monopoly with exclusivity granted by patent protection for many years.’ “


Cancer Doctors Have Opportunities to Cut Costs Without Risk to Patients, Experts Say

“In a review article published Feb. 14 in The Lancet Oncology, Johns Hopkins experts identify three major sources of high cancer costs and argue that cancer doctors can likely reduce them without harm to patients. The cost-cutting proposals call for changes in routine clinical practice involved in end-of-life care, medical imaging and drug pricing.

” ‘We need to find the best ways to manage costs effectively while maintaining the same, if not better, quality of life among our patients,’ says Thomas Smith, M.D., The Harry J. Duffey Family Professor of Palliative Medicine and professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins.”


Cancer Doctors Have Opportunities to Cut Costs Without Risk to Patients, Experts Say

“In a review article published Feb. 14 in The Lancet Oncology, Johns Hopkins experts identify three major sources of high cancer costs and argue that cancer doctors can likely reduce them without harm to patients. The cost-cutting proposals call for changes in routine clinical practice involved in end-of-life care, medical imaging and drug pricing.

” ‘We need to find the best ways to manage costs effectively while maintaining the same, if not better, quality of life among our patients,’ says Thomas Smith, M.D., The Harry J. Duffey Family Professor of Palliative Medicine and professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins.”


Cancer Doctors Have Opportunities to Cut Costs Without Risk to Patients, Experts Say

“In a review article published Feb. 14 in The Lancet Oncology, Johns Hopkins experts identify three major sources of high cancer costs and argue that cancer doctors can likely reduce them without harm to patients. The cost-cutting proposals call for changes in routine clinical practice involved in end-of-life care, medical imaging and drug pricing.

” ‘We need to find the best ways to manage costs effectively while maintaining the same, if not better, quality of life among our patients,’ says Thomas Smith, M.D., The Harry J. Duffey Family Professor of Palliative Medicine and professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins.”