Top Oncologists Push Back On ‘Outrageous’ Costs Of Cancer Drugs

“More than 110 doctors from cancer centers around the country called on drug makers to justify their soaring prices and for the government to put regulatory curbs in place. They noted that every new drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2014 was priced at more than $120,000 per year.

The New York Times: Drug Companies Pushed From Far And Wide To Explain High Prices
As complaints grow about exorbitant drug prices, pharmaceutical companies are coming under pressure to disclose the development costs and profits of those medicines and the rationale for charging what they do. So-called pharmaceutical cost transparency bills have been introduced in at least six state legislatures in the last year, aiming to make drug companies justify their prices, which are often attributed to high research and development costs. (Pollack, 7/23)

The Wall Street Journal: Doctors Object To High Cancer-Drug Prices
More than 100 oncologists from top cancer hospitals around the U.S. have issued a harsh rebuke over soaring cancer-drug prices and called for new regulations to control them. The physicians are the latest in a growing roster of objectors to drug prices. Critics from doctors to insurers to state Medicaid officials have voiced alarm about prescription drug prices, which rose more than 12% last year in the U.S., the biggest annual increase in a decade, according to the nation’s largest pharmacy-benefit manager. (Whalen, 7/23)”


'Skin in the Game' and Importing Cancer Drugs

” ‘Skin in the game’ is a phrase that has gained popularity in the healthcare market. It implies that if patients have a personal financial stake in a decision, such as higher out-of-pocket expenses, they will be more prudent and act more responsibly.

“Skin in the game can work to some degree, note Hagop Kantarjian, MD, chair of the Department of Leukemia, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, and colleagues in a viewpoint article published online July 2 in JAMA Oncology.

“However, for many cancer patients, it has become ‘life in the game,’ they add.”


Important New Research on Early Palliative Care for Advanced Cancer Patients Published

“Researchers at Trinity College Dublin and Mount Sinai in New York have just published new research which for the first time provides strong evidence on the economic benefits of early palliative care intervention for people with an advanced cancer diagnosis. Their findings were published today in the highly esteemed international peer reviewed Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“Previous research has shown the clinical benefits of early palliative care, but this new study robustly demonstrated how early access to expert palliative care decision making resulted in very significant cost reductions of up to 24%. The intervention reduced both the length and intensity of hospital stay for patients with advanced cancer.

“The researchers from Trinity’s Centre for Health Policy and Management and Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, led by Peter May, HRB Economics of Cancer Fellow at Trinity, studied over 1000 patients’ pathways of care in five major US hospitals and looked at costs associated with their care based on whether they saw a specialist palliative care consultation team or received standard hospital care.”


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.”


Uninsured Patients Pay Unreasonably High Prices for Cancer Treatments

“Uninsured cancer patients are paying anywhere from 2 to 43 times what Medicare would pay for chemotherapy drugs, according to a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. These findings were published by Dusetzina et al in Health Affairs.

“Researchers led by Stacie Dusetzina, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy and the Gillings School of Global Public Health, and a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, reviewed newly available Medicare data on what physicians charged for chemotherapy drugs delivered intravenously in 2012.

“Uninsured patients who did not negotiate the billed amounts could expect to pay $6,711 for an infusion of the colorectal cancer drug oxaliplatin. However, Medicare and private health plans only pay $3,090 and $3,616 for the same drug, respectively.”


US Cancer Drug Prices 'Not Rational'

“New research conducted by JAMA Oncology has found that prices for new cancer medicines sold in the US are too high with many simply not being justified by their limited efficacy.

“The report‘s authors found that the annual cost of a new cancer medication now routinely exceeds $100 000, and that medical bills have become the single largest cause of personal bankruptcy.

“It says that the industry contends the high cost of drugs is required to support expensive and risky R&D, but the authors say that ‘the fact remains that when costs and revenues are balanced, the pharmaceutical industry generates high profit margins’.

“In their investigation the researchers looks at all of the cancer drugs approved by the FDA between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2013 – which totalled 51 drugs in oncology for 63 indications. During this time, nine drugs also received more than one approved indication.”


With Breast Cancer Treatment, You Do Get What You Pay For

“Despite concerns about the increasing costs of treating illnesses like breast cancer, higher treatment costs are linked to better survival rates, according to a study by Yale School of Medicine researchers in the Cancer Outcomes Public Policy and Effectiveness Research (COPPER) Center at Yale School of Medicine and Yale Cancer Center.

“The study appears in the April issue of Health Affairs.

” ‘Our findings indicate that in some instances, newer and costlier approaches may be leading to improved outcomes in patients,’ said senior author Cary P. Gross, M.D., professor of internal medicine at Yale and director of COPPER. ‘Now we need to tackle the harder questions about what we can afford to pay, and find out which treatments are effective for each patient.’ ”