Cure for cancer don’t get no respect no more

Cure for cancer don’t get no respect no more

Actually it would. The problem is that companies are charging very high prices for drugs with fairly marginal benefits. The USA Today’s top story isn’t about terrorism, gas prices, or the All Star game –it’s about high prices for cancer drugs. In case the headline Prices soar for cancer drugs isn’t clear enough, there’s a little table showing that 10 years ago drugs for advanced colorectal cancer cost $500 and the expected survival period was 11 months. Now the cost of drugs is up to $250,000 and survival is 24 months. That’s about $20,000 per month –more than society is willing to pay.

Although some companies like Roche are not embarrassed by the high price of such drugs, other companies may decide to be a bit more conservative. There really is room in the market to charge tens or hundreds of thousands for drugs that work really well. And the numbers cited above are just averages. Certain people are living a lot longer because of new drugs that don’t work for others.

But industry needs to think of a smarter way to price, like charging a high price but refunding most of it for patients who don’t respond well.

July 11, 2006

One thought on “Cure for cancer don’t get no respect no more”

  1. These so-called “smart drugs” focus their effects on specific, identifiable processes occurring within cancer cells. The new drugs are highly promising in that they “sometimes” provide benefit to patients who have failed traditional therapies. However, “they do not work for everyone, they often have unwanted side effects, and they are all extremely expensive.” Patients, physicians, insurance carriers, and the FDA are all calling for the discovery of “predictive tests” that allow for rational and cost-effective use of these drugs.

    There was a new EGFRx assay (a predictive test) developed that holds the key to solving some of the problems confronting this high-price healthcare system that is seeking ways to best allocate available resources while accomplishing the critical task of matching individual patients with the treatments most likely to benefit them. Not only is it an important predictive test, it is also a unique tool that can help to identify newer and better drugs, evaluate promising drug combinations, and serve as a “gold standard” correlative model with which to develop new DNA, RNA, and protein-based tests that better predict for drug activity.

    But how does one get ASCO and others to understand this and allow its judicious use? They have single-handedly done more over the past 20 years to keep assay-testing (pre-testing) technology under a bushel basket and out of the public light. It has hurt literally hundreds of thousands of patients. We’d be much further along and technology would have improved, even more accurate. New treatments would have been discovered and targeted immediately to the people who could most benefit from them. This has been one great lost of opportunity in clinical cancer research.

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