Are Current Prices for Cancer Drugs Justified?

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Current prices for cancer drugs have risen dramatically over the past 15 years and the majority of existing treatments for hematologic, or blood, cancers are currently priced too high to be cost-effective in the United States, a new study published in Cancer concluded.

Authors say cost-effectiveness is often interpreted in terms of the cost needed to gain an additional quality year of life and a threshold value of $50,000 is widely accepted. Below this amount the treatment is considered cost-effective. Looking at prices for cancer drugs in studies considered cost effective and comparing with current prices for those same drugs they found that 63% had costs per additional life years higher than the $50,000 threshold and several had costs of $210,000 to 426,000 per additional life year. The example of imatinih was used in which the cost was $26,000 per year of therapy in 2001 and $132,000 per year in 2014. The researchers said the rising prices are not a result of new and improved versions of the drug but rather a result of the rising cost of drugs charged by Drug Companies. They continue that this is seen for all new cancer drugs and rising drug costs were recently the target of much criticism at the 2015 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting in Chicago. They said “The trend for drug prices continue to go upwards. This is very concerning, particularly for new drugs coming to market soon that are almost all priced above $100,000 per year of treatment. This is becoming very unaffordable and unsustainable.”  The conclude that this is more disturbing because many drugs are meant to be taken daily for years to manage cancer and could cause extreme financial burdens for even those who are well insured. They suggest regulating prices of drugs in the USA as is done in Europe to make them manageable.

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