High Cancer Drug Costs: Unsustainable and Unconscionable

High cancer drug costs have finally gotten the attention they deserve from cancer doctors.  They don’t understand the reason for the high costs.

Prices for cancer drugs have been part of the debate over health care costs for several years — and recently led to a public protest from doctors at a major cancer center in New York. But the decision by so many specialists, from more than 15 countries on five continents, to join the effort is a sign that doctors, who are on the front lines of caring for patients, are now taking a more active role in resisting high prices. In this case, some of the specialists even include researchers with close ties to the pharmaceutical industry.


Gleevec entered the market in 2001 at a price of about $30,000 a year in the United States, the doctors wrote. Since then, the price has tripled, it said, even as Gleevec has faced competition from five newer drugs. And those drugs are even more expensive.

The prices have been the subject of intense debate elsewhere as well. The Supreme Court in India ruled recently that the drug could not be patented, clearing the way for use of far less expensive generic alternatives.

Read the article for more.

Medicynical Note:  The article emphasizes the cost inflation of the most successful of the new targeted agents.  As noted above since it’s introduction Gleevac has tripled in cost.  It is the most profitable drug marketed by Novartis.  Oh yes you remember Novartis the company that in the news the past few days for bribing doctors and pharmacists, yes that “ethical” company Novartis.

What’s not discussed in the article is that many of these super expensive drugs do very little to improve patient outcomes (i.e. patients don’ t live longer) but still cost in the range of $100,000/year.

As Marcia Angell observed 10 years or so ago, in today’s medical business it’s your money or life or in the case of drugs that don’t work, both.

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