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 Blood, the 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.
Making cancer drugs less expensive
By Hagop Kantarjian, Tito Fojo and Leonard Zwelling,February 22, 2013
Of the 12 new cancer drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration last year, 11 were priced above $100,000 annually. Yet only three were found to improve patient survival rates and, of these, two increased survival by less than two months.
All this shows little or no correlation between drug efficacy and “just price.” Medical bills have become the major cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States, which is not surprising, given the amounts that even well- insured patients have to pay for drugs. Those that cost more than $100,000 can command a quarter to a third of some households’ annual income.
Once a cancer drug is approved by the FDA, the pharmaceutical company that made it determines its price. This is based on research and development costs and the expense incurred in creating drugs that were not successfully developed, as well as regulatory, education and advertisement costs. To outsiders, these prices can seem arbitrary. Often, the price is set above that of a similar drug on the market.