Presidential Panel Says High-Priced Cancer Drugs Harm Patient Care

From - March 13, 2018

Presidential Panel Says High-Priced Cancer Drugs Harm Patient Care

TUESDAY, March 13, 2018 -- "Financial toxicity" caused by high cancer drug prices is harming people's ability to fight the dreaded disease, a new report from the President's Cancer Panel warns.

The report, released Tuesday, argues that urgent action is needed to stem the growing price tags associated with new cancer drugs, particularly if the price does not match the amount of benefit the drug offers.

"Drug costs are accelerating far faster than costs for other components of care, which, together, can result in a significant financial burden on patients and their families," the three-member panel wrote. "When financial resources are strained, patients are less likely to follow treatment regimens, potentially worsening health outcomes these drugs are intended to improve."

The panel recommends a series of actions to minimize the impact of drug costs on patients while also promoting value-based pricing of newer drugs.

In 2013, cancer patients paid $207,000 a year, on average, for their medications, compared with $54,100 a year in 1995, according to the report.

The panel reported that much of the increase can be attributed to new cancer drugs coming on the market.

More than half of new cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from 2009 to 2013 were priced at more than $100,000 for one patient's treatment for a year. In 2015, cancer patients were paying from $7,484 to $21,834 a month to take new breakthrough drugs that could help them survive.

These prices are causing financial toxicity -- a term the panel used to describe the negative impact of cancer care costs on the well-being and survival chances of patients.

"We have patients every day who need to take medication and may be facing very difficult decisions about whether to take their medicine as prescribed or making adjustments based on financial concerns," said Ann Geiger, an adviser to the panel. She's deputy associate director of the Healthcare Delivery Research Program at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

PhRMA, which represents the pharmaceutical industry, responded to the panel's findings.

"Today's cancer therapies were unimaginable just a decade ago. These new therapies attack disease at the molecular level and are tailored to the unique needs of individual patients," Holly Campbell, deputy vice president of public affairs at PhRMA, said in a statement.

"Thanks to these breakthroughs, the cancer death rate in the United States has fallen 25 percent since its peak and two out of three patients diagnosed with cancer are living at least five years after diagnosis," she added.

But, "too often insurance companies do not cover the newest cancer breakthroughs and if they do, they often put all medicines to treat certain types of cancer on the highest cost-sharing tier," Campbell explained. "This concentrates costs on the sickest patients, which is the opposite of how insurance is supposed to work."

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