Although a recent study drew no conclusions as to why the increase in cost has happened, the researchers found the increases at odds with how they think the marketplace should work.
Oral cancer medications have become increasingly popular in the last 15 years, with 32 new types introduced between 2000 and 2014. With the heightened popularity has come a shocking increase in price of approximately 600 percent, with costs for drugs going from an average of $1,869 per month to $11,325. As the drugs become unaffordable for many who need them, patients are asking why.
These oral cancer drugs are typically less stressful on the patient than traditional chemotherapy treatments, but with increasing costs and high-deductible insurance plans the patients are having to shoulder more of the costs. Just why the prices are going up so much is not an easy question, and there may not be a good answer.
A study from the University of North Carolina has been examining drug costs, and the results of the research are published in the April 28 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Oncology. Although the study drew no conclusions as to why the increase in cost has happened, there is considerable speculation, and the researchers found the increase at odds with how they think the marketplace should work.
Consumer Affairs reported last June that researchers at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, who also looked at rising drug costs, found that the price increases were simply a matter of the drug companies charging more, rather than actual improvements in the drugs. And with changing insurance plans, more and more of these increased costs are being passed on to the patient.
Shawn Osborne is the vice president of Pharmacy and Supply Chain Services at University Hospitals of Cleveland. He says the oral cancer drugs are “a more targeted therapy that’s typically more pleasant,” and that this increased attention may relate to higher prices. He also cited better outcomes that some of the drugs have shown, leading to manufacturers charging more.
Osborne also cited the increased costs of monitoring patients who are taking the new drugs, which manufacturers are requiring in order to gather data on the new products.
Osborne did say that he thinks the prices of these drugs will stop increasing at the same high rate at some point. “I do think that with these drugs there’s a balance out there that will be struck at some point.”
Greed? Yes. But there is also the perceived exploitation of a vulnerable segment of the population.
As one who uses one of the advanced cancer medications, I look ahead to retirement in two years. I doubt that Medicare will pay for this medication. In that case it’s back to the chemo chair.
I certainly hope there will be a follow-up to studies such as this, and that the situation will be straightened out as needed.
As someone that has been on the receiving end of oral cancer – and the lifesaving therapies that come with it – I can say that it’s great to be alive.
I didn’t like the radiation and I didn’t like the chemo. The surgery was no fun either. Worst of all was watching my family suffer as they watched what was happening to me.
So to all of you simplistic dickheads that say that higher costs are due to just greed, then I think you should run out right now and set up a pharmacology company and undercut the greedy bastards you condemn. Those companies are just as greedy as the other people that saved my life along with the help and expertise of devoted nurses, radiologists, hemotologists, and those overpaid, greedy surgeons you also despise.
A free market response to this growing problem – oral cancer and higher treatment costs – is the answer, not ignorant complaints and demands for free stuff.
JEROME LITT says
EGREGIOUS AND UNCONSCIONABLE!