IMS Health estimates that spending on cancer medication hit $100 billion worldwide, which is an increase of 10.3%. Experts have seen a compound annual growth rate of 6.5% over the past five years.
Experts are divided on what the proper solution for the rising prices is. An editorial signed by 128 oncologists notes that the average price for new cancer drugs increased 5 to 10 fold more than $100,000 annually by 2012. Doctors assert that prices are unaffordable for many patients and need to be reined in.
Doctors also note that they often experience roadblock in getting an insurance company to cover an expensive drug. When that happens, doctors often inquire if the patient is eligible for the financial assistance program provided by drug companies, but that requires a lot of work on the part of both the doctor and the patient.
Doctors are also calling for allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and letting patients import drugs from lower-costs countries such as Canada.
The pharmaceutical industry has always opposed allowing patients to import drugs from overseas, by citing safety reasons.
Doctors are additionally calling for reforms to the patent process and prevent drug companies from delaying access to low-cost generics.
Unfortunately, the doctors’ proposal isn’t sitting well with the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical companies are arguing that the reform to the patent process would stifle innovation.
The pharmaceutical industry is fighting back against the claims of increasing drug prices by asserting that it only represents one-fifth of the total spending on cancer treatment.
Some doctors are sympathetic to the drug company’s argument but continue to question how drugs are priced, noting that pharmaceutical companies will charge whatever the market will tolerate.