Cancer drug pricing started, as I recall, to accelerate in the 90’s with the advent of Taxol (paclitaxel). This drug used mainly for breast cancer was priced at what now seems a “reasonable” $1000 for a dose. Prior to this “advance” the maximum cost for a drug was in the range of a few hundred dollars.
With better understanding of DNA and the genetic basis of cancer “targeted therapies arrived on the scene and prices rapidly spiraled. The first of targeted treatments, i.e. those that block a genetic defect, was Imatinib (Gleevac). A revolutionary advance, it was initially priced at between $26,000-and $40,000 (I recall the latter) for a year of treatment. A very big escalation. Now, FYI, that very same drug is sold at about 5 times the initial high price, $120,000 per year.
What’s amazing is that our so-called healthcare system paid up. Since then costs have spiraled. And todays example is just one of the extreme ultra-high priced medical “advances.”
“Approved by the FDA in January 2022 as the “first and only” treatment for metastatic uveal melanoma, Kimmtrak has kept his tumors stable, according to Davis. His oncologist told him he should stay on the drug “until it stops working.” Its manufacturer markets the drug’s power to deliver “6-month improvement in median overall survival.””
Medicynical Note: In cancer therapy the drug prices only partially reflect the actual cost of development. Companies price medication to maximize profits not to assure affordability or access. They consider the frequency of the disease as well as what any other drug for that disease will cost. When there is no other “effective” drug and the disease is severe and rare, the sky’s the limit.
The question remains who can afford it? How much can we afford to pay for 6 months of survival? Can insurers absorb the costs or is this the proverbial bridge too far?