The past Sunday, 60 Minutes aired a segment “The Cost of Cancer Drugs” in which Leslie Stahl got down to the core of the high drug prices and the financial toxicity of cancer treatment. The focus was on drugs used in the treatment of cancer and how they are getting more and more expensive each time a new drug is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and released for use by the public. This isn’t the first time the high prices of these cancer drugs have been brought up as an important issue. There are a number of medical experts and doctors from around the globe who have been vocal about their concerns of the high costs of cancer drugs. Patients who are fighting for their lives have to skimp, take half doses, or delay refilling prescriptions because they can’t afford their co-payment. So why are these life-saving drugs so expensive?
Who Sets the Price?
The pharmaceutical companies set the prices of the drugs they manufacture and perhaps the biggest problem is that there are no regulations over these prices. These companies say that it costs billions of dollars to produce the drugs and they must recoup their costs, yet they increase the cost of drugs that have been around a long time and have been known to cut the price of a drug when too much media attention is given to how much it costs.
It is U.S. government law that Medicare must pay the prices set by the pharmaceutical companies, regardless of how high that price is and the FDA does not consider the cost of a drug during the approval process, only its effectiveness and safety. Cancer drugs Gleevec and Sprycel are two of the least expensive cancer drugs on the market. Gleevec has been on the market for a long time and has gone from a cost of less than $30,000 per year in 2001 to over $90,000 per year in 2012. Other expensive cancer drugs include Tarceva and Xeloda. Newer drugs coming on to the market are being priced higher and higher.
Who Else Benefits?
Unfortunately, there is a major conflict of interest when it comes to the prescription of drugs, including cancer drugs, because the oncologist receives a kickback based the cost of the drug every time it is prescribed. It is common for oncologists to receive 6% of the cost of the cancer medication they prescribe, which adds up to a lot of money. This gives them incentive to prescribe the most expensive medication, whether or not it is actually any better at prolonging the lives of their patients.
What Can You Do?
Unfortunately, there is not a whole lot patients can do when it comes to the cost of their cancer medications. They have to pay the cost of their medication to continue to live. Some low-income patients might receive help from the drug companies, but the middle-class suffers because their copayment can be as much as $30,000 or more per year. If you are treating cancer, then talk to your oncologist about less expensive options.
In addition, you can visit www.eDrugSearch.com today, to find lower prices on cancer medications and other prescription drugs. At eDrugSearch.com, we have been working with trusted online pharmacies for over seven years to bring you your medications and over-the-counter drugs at lower prices so that you can focus on getting better without the financial burden.
60 Minutes: The Cost of Cancer Drugs with Leslie Stahl which aired on Oct 5, 2014