Cancer is one of the most expensive and riskiest diseases to treat. a new study shows that cancer drugs have become significantly more expensive compared to the drugs used 15 years ago.
It’s no secret that treating cancer is no walk in the park and it could leave someone’s bank account in the red. Treating cancer today with drugs has been found to be costlier than treating the disease with drugs several years ago.
Researchers have showed that the cost for a month of treatment with the latest cancer drugs from 2014 cost six times more than cancer drugs from 2000. That is even after adjusting the prices for inflation.
To put that into more understandable figures, the researchers said that the cancer drugs from 2000 had an average cost of $1,869 per month. The cancer drugs from 2014 cost $11,325 which is nearly $10000 more.
One of the drugs found to have become more expensive from the time it launched in 2001 was imatinib or Gleevec. The drug initially cost $3,346 and the price has suddenly skyrocketed to $8,479 in 2014 marking a 7.5 percent average annual increase.
Dr. Stacie Dusetzina, one of the study’s author, said that the major trend found in their study is that the cancer drugs are increasingly becoming more expensive as time passes by. She is from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and also an assistant professor at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
While most patients do not really pay for the whole price of the drug because of their health benefits, most of the cost is still passed on to them. This is even if the commercially insured health plans had generous coverage for the cancer drugs, which are mostly administered orally through pills.
Because of the continued increase in the price and cost of the cancer drugs, more cancer patients won’t be able to afford the treatment options. Despite the added research and development for cancer drugs, the cost is still not going down.
Dr. Dusetzina said in a press release:
“Patients are increasingly taking on the burden of paying for these high-cost specialty drugs as plans move toward use of higher deductibles and co-insurance – where a patient will pay a percentage of the drug cost rather than a flat copay.”
The study involved the analysis and review of drug reimbursements for cancer drugs paid by the commercial health plans between the years of 2000 ad 2014. The researchers from UNC used the TruvenHealth MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters database.
after the review and analysis of the data, the researchers found out that 17 new cancer drugs have been launched between the years of 2011 and 2013. There were also new drugs approved to be launched nearly every year in the period.
There were no reasons stated as to why these drugs became more expensive over time. However, some believe that the prices increased because they have shown better outcomes for the patients with cancer, according to aBC News.
Shaw Osborne, Pharmacy and Supply Chain Services VP at the University Hospitals of Cleveland, said that the cancer drugs are “more targeted” and, therefore, “more pleasant” for the patient. In addition, he said that the drug manufacturers are charging more because of the positive effects it showed in the cancer patients.
Newer drugs could also be harder to access and it could be another reason why their prices have continued to increase. Still, Osborne believes that the drug prices increase will halt at one point.
Over the past few months, there have been several cancer trials that have shown promise. One of which is the use of an HIV drug to target skin cancer’s “rescue kit”. The drug, called nelfinavir, was found to have the capability to delay the drug resistance of the cancer.
another possible cancer breakthrough is through the use of a mix of two powerful drugs Tyverb and Herceptin. When used as a treatment for women with breast cancer, the results showed that the cancer tumors were eradicated in less than two weeks. For the participants who did not get their tumors erased, the tumors still shrunk to smaller sizes which allowed surgeons to remove them.
In the United Kingdom, a cancer vaccine trial has started. The vaccine is designed to hopefully eradicate cancer tumors as well.
There was also a genetics breakthrough that can lead to targeting a cancer’s “achilles heel.” It was designed to help the cancer patient’s own immune system to recognize the cancer cells in order for it to attack them.
The treatment would help the immune system to determine the biological “flags” of the cancer cells. Even if the cancer cells do evolve and mutate, the flags would still remain to be a recognizable target for the immune system.
Coupled with additional treatment, the cancer cells could completely be eradicated with a higher chance. Still, the researchers need to conduct their first human trial to determine whether it will become effective at all.
Dr. Dusetzina’s study did not look at other possible alternative cancer treatments. They focused on the cancer drugs that were mostly orally-administered.
While they may be effective for some, cancer patients who do not have the money to afford such treatments can still die from the disease. The thousands of dollar increase for the drugs means that more cancer patients are also increasingly becoming unable to treat their disease.
Dr. Dusetzina said that their study did not account the spending made by Medicare and the Medicaid health plans. There are other rarely used drugs that could have been missed from their study as well because commercial health plans did not cover such products.