KEY TAKEAWAY: When the head of the FDA says “far too many patients find themselves in “a financial no-man’s land” because of shouldering the costs of cancer medications” you know that something is terribly wrong. The fact is that patients and caregivers couldn’t give a damn about who is responsible for high drug costs they just want to empty life savings because of treatments.
“Rising co-pays and co-insurance are pushing far too many patients into a financial no man’s land where sometimes they must literally choose between exhausting their bank accounts, or going without access to potentially effective treatments,” Gottlieb said in prepared remarks for a speech at the 2018 Community Oncology Conference Thursday outside Washington. Gottlieb said cancer patients are disproportionately shouldering the cost of cancer medicines.
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.
Due to high costs of health care, 44% of people in the United States avoid visiting the doctor’s office when sick or injured, and approximately 40% skip necessary medical tests or treatment , according to results from a new national poll that were presented at the American Society on Aging 2018 Aging in America Conference.
There is a lot of blame to go around from PBM’s to pharma companies, but patients and caregivers don’t care. Jenny, a recent cancer patient, survivor, said that she had to zero out her 401K and savings to pay for her treatment co-pays. “I’m 39 and now have to start from square one and it’s scare as hell” she told me. “I thought I had good insurance through my employer, but when you’re sick you really find out how good or bad your insurance really is”.
New research shows that for a substantial fraction of Americans, a trip to the hospital can mean a permanent reduction in income. Some people bounce right back, but many never work as much again. On average, people in their 50s who are admitted to the hospital will experience a 20 percent drop in income that persists for years. Overall, income losses dwarfed the direct costs of medical care.
The Sad Truth
There isn’t going to be any silver knight who can fix our health care woes. It’s going to take a bipartisan approach with insurers, patients and industry people. The real question then becomes “can they put their thirst for profits aside to really improve health care” and how much profit is acceptable? No easy answers, but someone has to be brave enough to start addressing the barriers to our expensive health care system NOW.