Cancer Drug Prices Rising
Increasing prices for cancer drugs "is a microcosm of broader trends pushing up health care costs nationally," the New York Times reports. According to the Times, the "cost of treatments seems to have little impact on demand," with "patients often facing grim prognoses and desperate for new therapies and insurers relatively powerless to negotiate prices or deny coverage."
Insurers have attempted to regulate the cost of some other types of drugs by encouraging the use of generics, but "they face public pressure not to restrict access to new cancer treatments," the Times reports.
In addition, the majority of cancer drugs cannot be substituted for one another, preventing competition between drug makers. FDA does not regulate the price of drugs during its review process, while Medicare is "forbidden by law from considering cost in deciding what treatments to cover," the Times reports.
As a result, cancer drug prices are rising more quickly than overall health care inflation, with worldwide spending on cancer drugs expected to more than double between 2004 and 2009 to $55 billion.
Carolina Hinestrosa, executive vice president at the National Breast Cancer Coalition, said access to some therapies "is beginning to erode" due to the high costs and lack of "an effort in terms of public policy to keep prices under control."
The Times reports that "many patients face copayments of 20% for their cancer drugs, an expense that can become ruinous for patients" taking multiple new drugs (Berenson, New York Times, 10/1).