Cancer doctors and patients express concerns about exorbitant drug costs

Author:
Updated:
Original:

Cancer campaigns now occur every month of the year, from colorectal cancer awareness in March to World Cancer Day in February. Apart from all the ribbons and 5K walks, though, awareness is increasing about a different issue when it comes to the cancer landscape: the high cost of cancer drugs.

On a recent 60 minutes episode, correspondent Lesley Stahl investigated the price of cancer drugs and found some are so expensive that a growing number of patients can't afford their co-pay.

Dr. Leonard Saltz, chief of gastrointestinal oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering, one of the nation's foremost cancer centers, told Stahl that a cancer diagnosis is one of the leading causes of personal bankruptcy.

"I do worry that people's fear and anxiety are being taken advantage of," Dr. Saltz said on the news show. "And yes, it costs money to develop these drugs, but I do think the price is too high."

Patients have also been sounding the alarm about the effects of cancer drug costs. On his Patient Power website, cancer survivor Andrew Schorr noted that his chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is in remission, but that in the future, he could be a candidate for new anti-CLL pills that show promise. However, the price for those medications could be around $100,000 per year.

He added that when he developed a second cancer, myelofibrosis, the pills he took cost his insurance company about $8,000 per month. As he approaches an age when he'll have Medicare, Schorr wonders about that coverage's 20 percent co-pay arrangement.

"As more people survive cancer and remain on ongoing medicines, the U.S. has to have a fair and open discussion about the cost of cancer medications," Schorr wrote in the blog post.

Pharmaceutical companies counter with the argument that the cost of creating a new drug can be astronomical, leading to high prices by the time the drugs come down to the patient level. Last year, Forbes conducted an analysis on drug research, marketing and manufacturing costs and found that a company hoping to get a single drug to market can expect to spend $350 million before the medicine is available for sale.

But those numbers haven't seemed to quench the furor over pricing. In an opinion piece appearing in the AARP Bulletin, Donald W. Light and Hagop Kantarjian, of Harvard University and MD Anderson Cancer Center, respectively, railed against those drug company claims.

They noted that prices for cancer drugs are higher than other medications, even though the research costs are the same. Calling on Congress to hold hearings on the spiraling prices for specialty drugs, the pair also recommended that physicians treat patients with drugs they can afford.

Next Up

Cam Talbot / Minnesota Wild

Wild take Game 1 over Vegas in overtime thriller

It was an epic dual between Cam Talbot and Marc-Andre Fluery.

Taylor Rogers

Twins defense, bullpen squanders another rally

This is the story of the 2021 Twins.

Minneapolis police

3 Mpls officers injured on night of shootings, stabbings and fights

It was a tense weekend for the city of Minneapolis.

Fruen Mill in Minneapolis.

Teen in serious condition after fall at abandoned Minneapolis mill

Multiple urban explorers have been hurt at the Fruen Mill.

Screen Shot 2021-04-12 at 5.44.29 PM

Brooklyn Center City Council votes to create department for noncriminal calls

The resolution is named after Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler, who were both killed by police in Brooklyn Center.

Screen Shot 2021-05-16 at 7.54.26 AM

Train derails while passing by lake in Albert Lea

The Union Pacific train derailed Saturday afternoon.

Kaprizov, Wild

5 questions for the Wild's playoff series against Vegas

The Wild seem to have the advantage, but can they win their first playoff series since 2015?

police tape, crime scene

Young girl shot in the head in north Minneapolis

The girl was outside when she was struck by the bullet, police said.

prison, Rush City cell block

Former Army Green Beret and U of M student sentenced for Russian espionage

Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 46, was sentenced to 188 months in prison.

Miguel Sano

Miguel SanĂ³'s 8th inning blast ends Twins losing streak

The 5-4 victory over the A's snapped a five-game losing streak.

Related