“The Super Bowl” of cancer therapy?

KEY TAKEAWAY:  The NEJM called today’s announcements around lung cancer “The Super Bowl of Cancer Immunotherapy”.  Perhaps they should listen to patients first before patting themselves on the back.

The headline in the New York Times says “Lung Cancer Patients Live Longer With Immune Therapy”.  The odds of survival can greatly improve for people with the most common type of lung cancer if, along with the usual chemotherapy, they are also given a drug that activates the immune system, a major new study has shown.  They cost more than $100,000 a year, can have serious side effects and help only some patients, generally fewer than half.

But, what do patients and caregivers think?  Id the comments on Facebook are any indication, they’re not buying the hype.

Other comments refer to the costs of the therapies while others talk about just extending life for the benefit of pharma dollars.  It’s a good way to communicate to patients that their primary concerns are

1ne: Quality of life

2wo: Cost of therapy

Now, none of us can say what we would pay for a couple extra months of precious life, but more and more cancer patients are saying “it’s not worth it if my quality of life is null and void and if it wipes out my family’s savings”.

The announcement today is more about stock prices than focusing on patients. Yes, in rare occasions  some patients are living longer because of new immunotherapies but pharma needs to be transparent about who will benefit and the costs of such therapies. Insurance companies are not about to put a price on extending life so patients are asking the hard questions that pharma has has to and should, answer.

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