Prices of new cancer drugs are “absolutely immoral.”

Wilko-Johnson-refuses-cancer-treatment-after-last-diagnosisPOST SUMMARY: According to the Dallas Morning News, five years ago, cancer treatment accounted for just $157 billion of the nation’s annual $2.6 trillion health bill. Propelled by new drugs and an aging population, however, cancer spending is rising quickly. A forecast from the National Cancer Institute said spending could hit $207 billion by the end of the decade.

[bctt tweet=”Prescription drug prices are rising much faster than other health care costs”]

In 2014, the cost of prescription drugs jumped 13.1 percent, according to Express Scripts, a pharmaceutical benefits company. Specialty drugs, like cancer drugs and the hepatitis C treatments, increased 30.9 percent in 2014. Their prices are expected to go up another 44 percent this year.

The cost of specialty drugs was $87 billion in 2012. [bctt tweet=”United Healthcare estimates that Rx spending could reach $400 billion by 2020″].

Total prescription drug spending in 2014 was about $300 billion.

Cancer patients without adequate insurance have only the starkest choice: your money or your life.


Dr. Hagop Kantarjian, the chair of the leukemia department at Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, argues the prices of these new cancer drugs are “absolutely immoral.”

Dr. Lee Newcomer, senior vice president for cancer care with insurer United Healthcare, said everyone with health insurance absorbs the cost of these cancer drugs through higher premiums. “Right now, I don’t have the ability to say no” to these drugs, Newcomer said. “Insurance regulations across the country mandate that I pay for that drug, no matter how little or how much value that has.

“Pharmaceutical companies know that, and they’ll set the price as high as society will tolerate,” he said. “But I have no legal ability to say no. It’s an environment that is clearly broken.”

A petition drive going that he hopes will attract 1 million cancer survivors. (The petition is online at There are sites on Facebook and Twitter, as well.) The petition asks the Obama administration and Congress to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

Reality Check

How much longer are pharma companies going to continue shooting themselves in the foot with high prices?  While it’s true that Rx drugs costs only account for 10% of every health care dollar spent that does not mean that companies can charge high prices for these drugs.

23 - Time For Change

Pharma needs to expand the model for financial assistance by raising the minimum amount that for patient qualification.  Today, for example, having a $85,000 salary is not enough to pay for drugs that cost $20,000 a year.

In addition to these high prices mean that the subject is going to part of the next Presidential election with candidates promising to allow Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies on cancer prices.