Study: Patients May Lose Access To New Cancer Drugs Due To Rising Costs

Cancer Drugs

A new study has showed that new cancer drugs, available in pill form, are six times more expensive compared with drugs launched 15 years ago.

Researchers have raised concerns that this massive increase in cancer drugs, introduced in 2014, will put more financial broaden on patients and their families. They also raised questions that prices over time, making cancer treatment more expensive and even difficult.

Comparing prices, the study, published in JAMA Oncology, found that that orally-administered cancer drugs, approved in 2000, cost an average of $1,869 per month compared to $11,325 for those approved in 2014.

High Prices Affects Patient’s Access to Cancer Drugs

Stacie Dusetzina, study author, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that “the major trend here is that these products are just getting more expensive over time.”

Scientists have been working to develop orally-administered drugs for cancer patients. But now patients are increasingly taking on the financial burden of paying for these high-cost specialty drugs. This potentially affecting a patient’s access to the drug and their ability to use it, according to Dusetzina.

Launched in 2001, the drug imatinib, also known as Gleevec, is one of popular drugs for the treatment of cancer. It costs around $8,479 compared to $3,346 about 15 years ago. This shows an average annual change of 7.5%.

“Patients are increasingly taking on the burden of paying for these high-cost specialty drugs as plans move toward use of higher deductibles and co-insurance — where a patient will pay a percentage of the drug cost rather than a flat copay,” Dusetzina said.

Dusetzina studied what payment commercial health insurance companies and patients made for prescription fills before rebates and discounts for orally-administered cancer drugs from 2000 to 2014. The data was provided by the TruvenHealth MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters database.

The study did account for payments by commercial health plans, but it did not account for spending by Medicaid and Medicare, which may differ, according to Dusetzina, who also is a UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center member, and an assistant professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

In addition, the study only included the products that were dispensed and reimbursed by commercial health plans, which may have excluded rarely used or recently approved products.

Here is list of more than 200 cancer drug published by the U.S. National Cancer Institute.