Pharma ignores patients as new cancer drug data are released

  • 62 percent of cancer patients report being in debt due to their treatment.
  • 55 percent accrue at least $10,000 in debt, while 3 percent file for bankruptcy.
  • Cancer costs exceed $80 billion in America each year.
  • New data suggest cancer drugs prolong life, but what about the cost?

There are all kinds of press releases coming out of a cancer conference in Munich.  Most talk about extending the lives of patients, but I haven’t seen one study talk about the cost of these drugs versus the quality of life.

A new study, published this month in The American Journal of Medicine, discovered that 42 percent of patients deplete their life savings during the first two years of treatment. There’s good reason the term “financial toxicity” is in the name of this report.

A 2016 systematic review of 45 studies, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that up to 62 percent of patients report being in debt due to treatment. Another study of over 4,700 patients from that year discovered that 55 percent accrued at least $10,000 in debt, while 3 percent filed for bankruptcy.

So we may be living longer, but the bill collectors are hounding cancer patients to pay up.  This is not how healthcare is supposed to work.

More than half of 1,054 patients with metastatic breast cancer who participated in a survey recently indicated they had stopped or were refusing treatments because of the cost, and 54% of those who were surveyed said they had been contacted by a debt collector because of an unpaid cancer-related debt.

Spending on cancer drugs has doubled over the past five years.  Every new cancer drug brought to market last year cost $100,000 or more.  The average cost of a new drug released in 2017 was $150,000, according to the report from The IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, formerly IMS Health and Quintiles.

Those drug costs are expected to double again by 2022. That compares to the average $79,000 cost of new cancer drugs that hit the market in 2013.

“Global spending on cancer medicines — both for therapeutic and supportive care use — rose to $133 billion globally in 2017, up from $96 billion in 2013,”and you can bet that pharma wants a huge chunk of this spending.

Once again the drug industry is neglecting patients.