Real Money!

This is from the Patented Medicine Review Board in Canada. It shows the current pricing of Avastin, a drug that prevents new blood vessel development in tumors. You will note that the tax for being a U.S. citizen and having a cancer diagnosis requiring Avastin is a price premium of 50%.

Introductory Period
Country Price for 25 mg/mL injectable solution
Canada $125.0000
France –
Germany $130.7149
Italy –
Sweden $132.7221
Switzerland $136.5705
U.K. $131.4463
U.S. $186.6446
Median $132.7221

A course of treatment of Avastin, with other medication, for colon cancer lasts on average 10 months and may prolong the life of the patient 4-5 months (no cures). The cost for Avastin alone is $44,000 –it essentially doubles the cost of treating the disease.

The dosage of Avastin in breast and lung cancer is double that of colon cancer. For these patients, a course of treatment will approach $100,000 for the Avastin with another $30-$50,000 for other medicines and procedures. Such treatment offers no chance of cure and only a limited extension of life– 2 months for lung cancer, 6 months progression free survival improvement in breast cancer.

To paraphrase Everett Dirksen, $100,000 here $100,000 there, pretty soon we’ll be talking real money. It’s wonderful that there has been progress but can we afford it? Is it reasonable to pay $100,000, an amount that is more than double the median and average incomes in country for 2-6 month improvement in survival?

Genentech the manufacturer of Avastin has magnamiously offered to place a $55,000 ceiling on an individual’s expenditures for this drug if they have an income of less than $75,000/year. No one would accuse the pharmaceutical industry of generosity with such an offer.

In reality we could all save the 50% premium (see Canadian data paragraph 1) that we are being charged if we simply negotiated with the manufacturer.

Despite such logic and the immorality of price gouging in health care, there are cries of agony from PHARMA’s friends.

One hopes that the new Congress will look carefully at this issue and do the right thing.

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