The Economist of 26 May 2011 had an article entitled: The costly war on cancer – New cancer drugs are technically impressive. But must they cost so much? http://www.economist.com/node/18743951?story_id=18743951
The article says:
- CANCER is not one disease. It is many. Yet oncologists have long used the same blunt weapons to fight different types of cancer: cut the tumour out, zap it with radiation or blast it with chemotherapy that kills good cells as well as bad ones.
- The snag, from society’s point of view, is that all these drugs are horribly expensive.
- Not all these new drugs work.
- In December the FDA said that Avastin’s side effects outweighed its meagre impact on breast cancer.
- More generally, some people reckon that new cancer drugs offer small benefits at an exorbitant price.
- Provenge (for advanced prostate cancer) costs $93,000 for a course of treatment and extends life by an average of four months.
- Yervoy (for melanoma, a kind of skin cancer) costs $120,000 for three-and-a-half months. Some patients live much longer, which fuels demand for the drugs. But others spend a lot and get little.
- Who will reform this unsustainable system?
- Last year Gleevec grossed $4.3 billion. Roche’s Herceptin (the HER2 drug) and Avastin did even better: $6 billion and $7.4 billion respectively.
My comment: At the end of it all – it is about making huge profit at the expense of helpless cancer victims.
See also this article:
Only dead fish flow with the stream
In this world we see many fish. Most of what we see or know of are dead fish. Dead fish don’t flow against the current. They just float down with the stream. Drs. Graeme Morgan, Robyn Ward and Michael Barton of Australia (see Part 2 & 3 of this article) are no dead fish – they flow against the stream. I salute them for having the guts to speak up.
Drs Tito Fojo and Christine Grady in the USA appear to swim against the current too. They wrote an interesting paper: How much is life worth: Cetuximab, non-small cell lung cancer and the $440 billion question. The first author is from the Medical Oncology Branch of the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, USA, while Dr. Grady is from the Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, USA.