ASCO: Oncology drug prices expected to increase 20% per year for next seven years

KEY TAKEWAY: Per ASCO “specialty medications accounted for 37% of drug spending in 2015, and projections are that they will account for 50% of all drug spending by 2018. Oncology drug pricing is expected to increase at a rate of 20% per year for the next several years. Health care expenditures, including drug costs, have become a major cause of personal bankruptcy, and financial toxicity has become a common term used to describe the financial distress that accompanies the treatment of patients with cancer”. 

ASCO further writes “one recent study revealed that 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 following principles guided the development of ASCO’s position:

  • Value-based solutions that are patient centered and evidence driven should inform drug prices in the United States.
  • Oncology professionals should define optimal care and provide a framework to assess the comparative value of cancer treatment options from a clinical perspective.
  • A real and consistent relationship should exist between the value of a given drug and its cost to patients.
  • Physicians do not control the launch price of drugs; however, physicians do determine how drugs are used and are accountable for appropriate utilization.
  • Cost-containment strategies should not limit patient access to appropriate care or providers in prescribing such care.
  • Cost-containment strategies should incentivize, not hamper, innovation that results in clinically meaningful improvements in patient outcomes.

Now the key question becomes “what exactly is patient centered evidence”?  If you ask patients it’s living longer with a high quality of life as defined by them, not drugmakers or medical establishments.  Even if we go to value based medications how are patients expected to come up with co-pays that could be thousands of dollars?

The average cancer drug price for approximately 1 year of therapy or a total treatment duration was less than $10,000 before 2000, and had increased to $30,000 to $50,000 by 2005. In 2012, 12 of the 13 new drugs approved for cancer indications were priced above $100,000 per year of therapy.

The FDA needs to step up here and stop the approval of “me too” drugs from drug companies that just want a piece of the cancer business pie.  Patients also need transparent DTC on the real benefits of cancer therapies.  It doesn’t do anyone any good to show a patient who is living longer because of a therapy when 9 other patients may have not had as much success.

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