Posted on Oct 01, 2014

The high cost for new cancer drugs is a growing concern.

IMS Health reported last week that the financial burden of disease, or financial toxicity, is a side effect just as potent as fatigue or nausea in patients. 

Drugs that help the body’s own immune cells fight tumors are expected to be used in multi-drug cocktails. Unfortunately these cocktails push the price of therapies upwards of $100,000 a year even higher.

Simultaneously other expensive medicines are being combined to produce impressive results fighting diseases including breast and skin cancer.

Immunotherapies seem to work in more and more cancers, suggesting that they could become the backbone of treatment similar to the way chemotherapy is today.

Clinical updates in Madrid found that the efficacy of such therapies extend well beyond melanoma, the initial focus, to lung, kidney bladder, head, neck, and stomach cancer.

Price, along with safety and efficacy, was a hot topic for nearly 20,000 oncology experts at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) annual congress in Madrid.

A cancer specialist at the University Hospital of Lausanne and a member of the ESMO’s educational program asserts that the financial burden is a real problem for society.

The average price of cancer drugs has almost doubled in the past decade to $10,000 a month.

Healthcare systems are already struggling to meet the demands of aging populations this only adds another financial burden. In addition, in the U.S. market there are individuals who have to pay out-of-pocket costs.

Forecasts of sales of these new immune-boosting drugs from companies like Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck & Co, Roche and AstraZeneca may top $30 billion a year.

As ESMO survey found that patients in poorer parts of Europe already lack access to existing drugs such as Roche’s Herceptin for breast cancer, so immunotherapies are likely to be out of reach in most of the 131 countries represented at the annual congress in Madrid


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Gerry Oginski
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