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Cancer Doctors Protest Astronomical Prices for Cancer Drugs

Posted by on Apr. 26, 2013 at 9:13 AM
JRM
  • 41 Replies


With some new, potentially lifesaving cancer drugs costing up to $138,000 a year, about 120 leading cancer specialists have joined forces in an unusual protest aimed at getting pharmaceutical companies to cut prices.

Charging high prices for drugs cancer patients need to survive is like “profiteering” from a natural disaster by jacking up prices for food and other necessities, leading cancer doctors and researchers from around the world contend in a new paper published in Bloodthe journal of the American Society of Hematology.

Of 12 new cancer drugs that received FDA approval last year, 11 of them cost in excess of $100,000 a year—prices that the specialists attack as “astronomical,” “unsustainable,” and maybe even immoral. What’s more, only three of these drugs were found to improve patient survival rates and of these, two only increased it by less than two months, according to the Washington Post.

“Advocating for lower drug prices is a necessity to save the lives of patients,” say the specialists who wrote the paper, who specialize in chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), but emphasize that sky-high drug costs affect patients with many types of cancer.

Going Bankrupt to Stay Alive

“Medical illness and drug prices are the single most frequent cause of personal bankruptcy” in the US, according to the specialists, where patients’ copayments on drug prices average 20 percent of the total cost of the drug. That means that cancer patients often face having to shell out $20,000 to $30,000 a year, simply to stay alive.

The specialists also note that astronomical drug prices may be the single most common reason why patients stop taking lifesaving drugs. This is particularly true for those with CML, which requires daily treatment for long-term survival.

As a result the paper says, “grateful patients may have become the ‘financial victims’ of the treatment success, having to pay the high price annually to stay alive.” One study found that 10 percent of cancer patients fail to fill new prescriptions for oral cancer drugs.

For some patients, such as breast cancer survivor Patti Tyree, medical costs—not the disease—are stealing their future. The 57-year-old postal worker inherited $25,000, but after just one round of treatment for breast cancer, nearly half of the money is gone—and bills continue to pour in, she told USA Today.

One of the more expensive therapies for CML is Gleevac, a cancer drug that generated $4.7 billion in sales last year, making it the bestselling drug for its manufacturer, Novartis. Another Novartis leukemia drug, Tasigna, had sales of $1 billion, according to The New York Times.

Doctors Pressure Drug Companies to Slash Prices

Some of the specialists who joined the protest were inspired by the doctors from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) who refused to use a new colon cancer drug called Zaltrap because it cost more than twice as much ($11,063 on average for one month of treatment) as another drug (Avastin) without improving outcomes.

“Soaring spending has presented the medical community with a new obligation. When choosing treatments for a patient, we have to consider the financial strains they may cause alongside the benefits they might deliver,” the MSKCC doctors wrote in an October, 2012 op-ed for The New York Times about their boycott.

Subsequently, the drug’s manufacturer slashed the price by 50 percent.

Cancer Drugs Rank Among the World’s Most Expensive

The idea that "one cannot put a price on a human life” has led to wildly overblown healthcare costs in the U.S., estimated at $2.7 trillion in 2011, according to the paper’s authors, who urge insurers and government to more aggressively negotiate with pharmaceutical companies.

Many reports show that cancer drugs consistently rank as the most expensive therapies, even though some only extend life by a few months or offer no benefit over older, less expensive drugs.

The paper discussed Gleevac, which was originally priced at about $30,000 a year when it was approved in 2001. Since then, the price has tripled. However, its manufacturer told The New York Times that relatively few patients actually pay the full cost—and that the price reflects the high cost of developing new medications, which reportedly exceeds $1 billion.

Yet even doctors involved with developing Gleevac, such as Dr. Brian Druker, are criticizing Novartis, which raked in $4.7 billion in sales for the drug in 2012.

“If you are making $3 billion a year on Gleevec, could you get by with $2 billion?” Dr. Druker, now director of Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health and Science University, said in an interview with The New York Times. “When do you cross the line from essential profits to profiteering?”

http://health.yahoo.net/experts/dayinhealth/cancer-doctors-protest-astronomical-drug-costs

....I am only responsible for what I say,NOT for what you understand.....
by on Apr. 26, 2013 at 9:13 AM
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jehosoba84
by Jenn on Apr. 26, 2013 at 9:32 AM
1 mom liked this

 I realize that the pharm companies spent alot of $$$ in research for any new drug....but if they charge SO much for it that people don't even want (or cant) re-fill their prescriptions, then what are they gaining? Don't they actually slow the process of making their money back? 

PurdueMom
by Sherri on Apr. 26, 2013 at 10:26 AM
3 moms liked this

Someone very dear to me who recently finished her first round of chemo had to file bankruptcy and will most likely lose her home because of her medical bills.  She has insurance but still owes over $200,000 as her share of the bills.

She currently is in remission, but when her cancer comes back, we worry how to pay for it.  Her insurance is starting to deny treatments as she has reached the lifetime ceiling.  

The caving in to the pharmaceutical companies was a huge concern and disappointment for me during the healthcare debates.  It saddens me that we have the potential to help so many people, but as a nation refuse to stand together and fight for our rights.  No one should be making billions of dollars from another's fight for her life.



Sherri

KittyLicking.gif picture by wer4pu
lizzielouaf
by Gold Member on Apr. 26, 2013 at 10:28 AM
3 moms liked this

And yet boner pills are affordable. 

Euphoric
by Bazinga! on Apr. 26, 2013 at 10:29 AM

 :(

Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on Apr. 27, 2013 at 12:55 PM
1 mom liked this

My biggest fear is becoming terminally ill.  I know that I'll weigh my life with that of my family's needs and their future. I'll likely die.

PurdueMom
by Sherri on Apr. 27, 2013 at 12:59 PM
1 mom liked this

My family has considered moving to Canada.  That's hardly living the American Dream, is it?

Quoting Veni.Vidi.Vici.:

My biggest fear is becoming terminally ill.  I know that I'll weigh my life with that of my family's needs and their future. I'll likely die.


Sherri

KittyLicking.gif picture by wer4pu
Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on Apr. 27, 2013 at 1:02 PM


Quoting PurdueMom:

My family has considered moving to Canada.  That's hardly living the American Dream, is it?

Quoting Veni.Vidi.Vici.:

My biggest fear is becoming terminally ill.  I know that I'll weigh my life with that of my family's needs and their future. I'll likely die.


pretty much, no

Healthystart30
by Silver Member on Apr. 27, 2013 at 1:12 PM
My aunt battled colon cancer for 5 years and my mom was telling me that she ended up paying around 5000 out of pocket for medicine, doctors visits and such. (Pointing out the difference between countries) I hate that people are dying here because they can't afford to pay for medicine! I can't imagine how hard it must be to be battling to stay at life and at the same time feeling guilty because your family might become homeless! The system is rotten, from the insurance companies to the pharmaceuticals! We need to get rid of the for profit insurance companies, and I bet hospitals could get the price lowered for some of these drugs if all of them refused to buy it until its reasonably priced! People cry about obamacare but don't offer any solutions!
PurdueMom
by Sherri on Apr. 27, 2013 at 1:15 PM

In what country was your aunt treated?

Quoting Healthystart30:

My aunt battled colon cancer for 5 years and my mom was telling me that she ended up paying around 5000 out of pocket for medicine, doctors visits and such. (Pointing out the difference between countries) I hate that people are dying here because they can't afford to pay for medicine! I can't imagine how hard it must be to be battling to stay at life and at the same time feeling guilty because your family might become homeless! The system is rotten, from the insurance companies to the pharmaceuticals! We need to get rid of the for profit insurance companies, and I bet hospitals could get the price lowered for some of these drugs if all of them refused to buy it until its reasonably priced! People cry about obamacare but don't offer any solutions!


Sherri

KittyLicking.gif picture by wer4pu
Healthystart30
by Silver Member on Apr. 27, 2013 at 1:17 PM
Quoting PurdueMom:




Iceland
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