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Doctors Say High Cancer Costs Can’t Continue47:14
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With guest host John Donvan

After the diagnosis of cancer, another blow – the often-crippling costs of treatment. We look at the soaring price of cancer drugs.

Patient Carole Linderman has her blood drawn for a liquid biopsy, during an appointment at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia on Tuesday, April 28, 2015. (AP)
Patient Carole Linderman has her blood drawn for a liquid biopsy, during an appointment at Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia on Tuesday, April 28, 2015. (AP)

Cancer drugs exist today that can give not just months, but years of life back to patients, which seems like a medical miracle. The catch is what they cost — because prices are soaring — along with every other medical cost. In excess of a hundred thousand dollars a year for some drug, and not all picked up by insurance. Some consider that extortion: your money for your life. Even some cancer doctors are complaining it’s gone too far. So should the market determine the price of life-extending drugs, or should there be limits set? This hour On Point: the financial ethics of miracle medicine.
-- John Donvan

Guests

Andrew Pollack, biotechnology reporter for the New York Times.

Dr. Leonard Saltz, chief of gastrointestinal oncology at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Robert Zirkelbach, senior vice president of communications at the the pharmaceutical trade group PhRMA. (@robzirk)

From The Reading List

Mayo Clinic Proceedings: In Support of a Patient-Driven Initiative and Petition to Lower the High Price of Cancer Drugs — "The high prices of cancer drugs are affecting the care of patients with cancer and our health care system. In the United States, the average price of new cancer drugs increased 5- to 10-fold over 15 years, to more than $100,000 per year in 2012. A study by Howard et al documented the escalation in cancer drug prices by an average of $8500 a year over the past 15 years. The cost of drugs for each additional year lived (after adjusting for inflation) has increased from $54,000 in 1995 to $207,000 in 2013."

New York Times: Drug Prices Soar, Prompting Calls for Justification — "As complaints grow about exorbitant drug prices, pharmaceutical companies are coming under pressure to disclose the development costs and profits of those medicines and the rationale for charging what they do. So-called pharmaceutical cost transparency bills have been introduced in at least six state legislatures in the last year, aiming to make drug companies justify their prices, which are often attributed to high research and development costs."

The Wall Street Journal: Doctors Object to High Cancer-Drug Prices — "More than 100 oncologists from top cancer hospitals around the U.S. have issued a harsh rebuke over soaring cancer-drug prices and called for new regulations to control them. The physicians are the latest in a growing roster of objectors to drug prices. Critics from doctors to insurers to state Medicaid officials have voiced alarm about prescription drug prices, which rose more than 12% last year in the U.S., the biggest annual increase in a decade, according to the nation’s largest pharmacy-benefit manager."

This program aired on August 5, 2015.

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