The current pricing of cancer treatments is unsustainable

SUMMARY: The U.S. needs to take substantial steps to address the high costs of cancer drugs. From 2009 to 2019, the median monthly treatment costs for new drugs at launch reached $11,755 in the U.S… Does the question become how much is a month(s) of other life worth?

 According to an analysis published by JAMA Oncology, prices for new drugs approved for use in the treatment of cancer in the United States more than doubled over the past decade. From 2009-10 to 2018-19, the lowest average monthly costs for new cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration rose to nearly $15,000 from about $6,000, the data showed.

Now comes a cancer drug that costs almost $500,000 for a year. The FDA on Tues­day ap­proved Aa­di Bio­science’s first drug and the first treat­ment ap­proved specif­i­cal­ly for pa­tients with an ul­tra-rare and ag­gres­sive form of sar­co­ma that oc­curs most­ly in women. The com­pa­ny said the drug would be priced at a WAC of about $39,000 per month, or $468,000 per year and their stock immediately rose 25% on the news. The drug is rapamycin in a new albumin coating. Rapamycin was approved in 1999 and it’s also worth noting their Phase II was a tiny patient population.

While some current FDA-approved new therapies embody treatment approaches that offer essential unique clinical benefits, many offer few, if any, benefits. Moreover, costs associated with cancer drug treatment can add up quickly, with multiple infusions required each year, additional visits, hospital stays, imaging, tests, and treatments with other expensive drugs.

According to Fortune “pharmaceutical companies commonly cite the high-risk, high-cost enterprise of drug innovation and significant gains to mortality and reductions in morbidity to justify high cancer drug prices.  However, the evidence does not support these claims. To be sure, drug development is risky, costly, and takes time. However, publicly reported accounting data analyzed by researchers from the West Health Policy Center and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shows that returns on assets for pharmaceutical companies exceed those of the most profitable industries by several percentage points. For many cancer drugs, prices also continue to increase after launch without demonstrated increases in benefit.”

With new cancer drugs commonly priced over $100,000 a year or more, hundreds of thousands of cancer patients are delaying care, cutting their pills in half, or skipping drug treatment entirely, a Kaiser Health News examination showed. One-quarter of all cancer patients chose not to fill a prescription due to cost, according to a 2013 study in The Oncologist.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Medicine, more than 42 percent of the 9.5 million people diagnosed with cancer from 2000 to 2012 drained their life’s assets within two years. According to research, cancer patients are 2.65 times more likely to file for bankruptcy than those without cancer, and bankruptcy puts them at a higher risk for early death.

Their stock went up 25%, and today that’s what it’s all about.