ASCO: More about investors than patients?

  • The global market for oncology therapeutic medicines will reach as much as $200 billion by 2022, averaging 10 to 13 percent growth over the next five years, with the U.S. market reaching as much as $100 billion by 2022, averaging 12 to 15 percent growth.
  • Spending on cancer drugs has doubled over the past five years.
  • The average cost of a new drug released in 2017 was $150,000.
  • Cancer drug costs are expected to double again by 2022.
  • While cancer rates and rates of death have been steadily dropping, drug spending will go up.

If cancer patients were hoping to hear good news about the sky high cost of cancer drugs at ASCO they can pretty much forget it. The focus of this ASCO is on drug companies and data which in turn goes right to Wall Street and the stock prices of drug companies.

It’ also important to remember only 19% of recently approved cancer drugs met ASCO’s goals for producing clinically meaningful survival outcomes for patients despite often entering the marketplace at extraordinarily high prices .  The balancing of the need for continued innovation for our patients, equitable access to high-quality care, and unsustainable cost trends calls for bold, but thoughtful action.

According to a “Report to the President of the United States from the President’s Cancer Panel”

The recent, dramatic rise in drug prices is straining patient, health system, and societal resources. Drugs account for about 20 percent of the total costs of cancer care in the United States, but cancer drug costs are accelerating faster than costs for other components of care. Launch prices of cancer drugs in the United States have risen so steeply over the past few decades that they have quickly outpaced growth in household incomes. U.S. patients and their insurers are paying more than ever for cancer drugs—$54,100 for a year of life in 1995 compared with $207,000 in 2013. Unfortunately, there are no signs that this price escalation is slowing.

The report goes on to say:

Although out-of-pocket expenses for drugs can be high, they are only one of many costs cancer patients face. Costs of other components of care—surgery, radiation, hospitalization, and clinic visits—each often represent a higher share of treatment costs
than drugs. Many patients and their families and caregivers also experience indirect costs related to loss of income, and transportation and childcare costs, among other expenses .  Collectively, these costs can impose a significant burden on patients. Many cancer patients incur considerable debt as a result of their treatments and/or reduce spending on basic necessities to defray out-of-pocket expenses.

So yes the good news is that there are more drugs coming to fight cancer, the bad news is that treatments might wipe out your life savings.  But hey, drug companies are making a lot of money.

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