ASCO Offers Path to Addressing Affordability of Cancer Drugs in New Position Statement


“The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) today issued a position statement aimed at contributing to the national dialogue on rising cancer drug prices. The statement, which asserts that any solutions must also preserve patients’ access to care and foster innovation, analyzes a wide array of options and recommends that a panel of stakeholders be established to determine which proposals will be effective and develop a uniform approach for assessing the value of drugs.

“The ASCO position statement highlights that new cancer drugs routinely cost more than $100,000 per year, and prices on many existing treatments continue to rise, causing serious financial hardship even for many patients with insurance. Patients with cancer are more than twice as likely to declare bankruptcy as those without cancer;  nearly six in 10 report being distressed about their finances during treatment.  Many patients forego or delay treatments as a result, potentially compromising their effectiveness. Drugs are the fastest growing component of cancer care costs, which are expected to increase by more than 25 percent between 2010 and 2020.”

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If you’re wondering whether this story applies to your own cancer case or a loved one’s, we invite you to use our ASK Cancer Commons service.

Lead Investigator Emphasizes Impact of Equivalent Efficacy With Trastuzumab Biosimilar in HER2+ Breast Cancer


“With drug prices continuing to rise, access to certain cancer treatments is becoming more challenging for patients facing financial limitations.

“Biosimilars could make it easier for some patients to afford their medications, especially those outside of the United States where these types of agents are more common, says Hope S. Rugo, MD.

“Rugo is the lead investigator on the Heritage study, which is evaluating MYL-1401O, a proposed biosimilar for trastuzumab (Herceptin), in patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer.”

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Do you have questions about this story? Let us know in a comment below. If you’re wondering whether this story applies to your own cancer case or a loved one’s, we invite you to use our Ask Cancer Commons service.

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.”

Super Patient: John Wagontall Gets a Third Opinion and Survives Prostate Cancer

Update:  We are deeply saddened to report that John passed away on December 18, 2016. It is a privilege to continue to share his story and keep his memory alive.

In the summer of 2004, John Wagontall looked like the picture of health. The 46-year-old Canadian had been a firefighter for 20 years, was an avid cyclist, and also worked out alongside his wife as she trained for a bodybuilding competition. The only sign that something was wrong was a bit of blood in his urine.

His doctor told John he had a bladder infection, prescribed antibiotics, and sent him home. And all appeared to be well until a few months later, when his urine was bloody again. This time, his doctor sent him to a urologist to learn the underlying cause of his recurring bladder infection. Continue reading…

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.”

Money Woes Spawn Cancer Patient Treatment Shortcuts

“Even though health insurance usually pays for the lion’s share of cancer-related costs, it still is often not enough.

“A new study shows that many insured cancer patients must make changes to their lifestyle, and even to their adherence to treatment, to deal with the financial burden of the disease.

“The small survey involved 174 patients who were undergoing treatment for solid tumors. They were nearly all female (96%), and the majority had breast cancer (85%), but 4% had colorectal cancer and 11% had other types of solid tumors.

“All the participants had medical insurance, and all requested financial assistance through a national copay assistance program.

“However, despite their insurance status, many were struggling to pay for their care. The vast majority (89%) reported that they had to make at least one change in their lifestyle to cope with treatment-related costs.

“Of the patients who used lifestyle-altering strategies, 78% cut spending on leisure activities, 57% cut spending on basics such as food and clothing, 54% borrowed money to pay for medication, 50% dove into their savings, 18% sold possessions, and in 15% of cases, family members took on more work.”