It is important to remember that the uproar over drug costs does not only apply to cancer drugs. As increasing numbers of specifically targeted drugs receive FDA approval and come to the market, there are increasing numbers of drugs that cost more than $100,000 for a year. Even someone with "good" insurance can easily end up being responsible for $20,000-$30,000 of that expense. That kind of money is impossible for many people and extremely difficult for many others. That kind of money is the equivalent of a mortgage or college tuition or lots of groceries and heating oil.
None of us has a crystal ball to predict where this is all going--except that it is pretty clear that we are nearing a crisis or tipping point when there is going to have to be some change. From NPR comes this story:
Doctors Press For Action To Lower 'Unsustainable' Prices For Cancer Drugs
Anyone who's fought cancer knows that it's not just scary, but pricey, too.
"A lot of my patients cry — they're frustrated," says Dr. Ayalew Tefferi, a hematologist
at the Mayo Clinic. "Many of them spend their life savings on cancer drugs and end up
The average U.S. family makes $52,000 annually. Cancer drugs can easily cost a
$120,000 a year. Out-of-pocket expenses for the insured can run $25,000 to $30,000
— more than half of a typical family's income.
"These drug prices are completely unsustainable," Tefferi says. "Pharmaceutical
companies are in greed mode, and it's sad. It's what I call completely unregulated."
According to a 2013 study, these steep drug prices cause about 10 to 20 percent of
cancer patients to skip or compromise the prescribed treatment. Another study found
that the launch price of cancer drugs, adjusted for inflation, increased by an average of
$8,500 a year between 1995 and 2013.
As well as this interview with Dr. Andrew Tefferi from the Mayo Clinic:
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
According to 118 leading oncologists, there's some good news about cancer drugs. New
ones are being developed faster than ever. Here's the bad news. A lot of cancer patients
can't afford them. In a commentary published today by the journal of the Mayo Clinic,
the oncologists call the steady rise in the price of cancer drugs unsustainable. The lead
author of the commentary is Dr. Ayalew Tefferi, and he joins us from the Mayo Clinic
in Rochester, Minn. Welcome to the program.
AYALEW TEFFERI: Thank you.
SIEGEL: How fast are cancer drug prices rising?
TEFFERI: Almost in an exponential fashion. The price of cancer drugs are doubling
and tripling within a few years rather than decades, and they are going much higher
than what's our average household income is.
SIEGEL: So the out-of-pocket costs for cancer drugs for a patient might be what?
TEFFERI: Anywhere between 20 and 30 percent. And take into consideration that if
we're talking about these new, exciting cancer drugs that are making a real difference
in meaningful health outcome are now averaging on an annual rate of about 120,000
plus. We're talking about more than half of the average household income of the
SIEGEL: You cite figures that some people who should be taking drugs don't do so
because they just feel they can't afford it.