Cancer Drug Costs: More Economic Rationing

The Wall Street Journal notes the expense of cancer drugs and the inability of people and our non-system to pay the price.

Two pieces of news out this week underline this point, and its consequences. Medco’s Drug Trend Report says that the oncology-specialty drug market, i.e. targeted therapies, could increase total cancer-drug spending by about 15% annually through 2013. That’s partially because of increased use, but mostly because the cost of the therapies themselves are rising.

And:

Some 16% of patients had an out-of-pocket cost of greater than $500. And one in four of those patients “abandoned (medicynical emphasis) the prescription and did not follow up with another oncology medication within 90 days,” the researchers write. Lower income and Medicare coverage were also associated with a higher abandonment rate.

And:

A study published jointly this week by the Journal of Oncology Practice and the American Journal of Managed Care finds that 10% of patients failed to fill new prescriptions for oral cancer drugs. The research will also be presented at ASCO.

Medicynical Note: The Journal won’t call it so, but this is evidence of more economic rationing in our non-system.

The most amazing part of this story is that these new “targeted” drugs, while advances, have only a modest effect on survival of patients…..but a tremendous effect on the bottom lines of pharmaceutical companies.

They are a tour de force of scientific progress and creative marketing. But as to patient care and improved outcomes, only a slight benefit–while bankrupting individuals and the non-system.

We need to insist that we don’t pay more for these “advances” than other countries in the world.   The power of the government in providing patent protection, for a generation, should be used to assure that drugs are priced realistically and competitively.

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One response to “Cancer Drug Costs: More Economic Rationing

  1. “A study published jointly this week by the Journal of Oncology Practice and the American Journal of Managed Care finds that 10% of patients failed to fill new prescriptions for oral cancer drugs. The research will also be presented at ASCO.”
    I wonder how much of that 10% was for aromatase inhibitors? There has been “the great debate” on a BC board, I belong to, regarding the often intolerable side effects and quality of life issues, when using these drugs. As a treatment survivor, I have found, too often, that quality takes a back seat to quantity. We may be saving lives, but are we making them better?

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