Over the past 15 years, the costs of several common oral medications for cancer have increased several times over. And those prices may keep rising in the coming years, according to newly published research. Why does that seem to be the case?
The study suggests that even after appropriate adjustments for inflation, orally administered cancer drugs are skyrocketing in price at an alarming rate. In addition, newer and more effective drugs are entering the market at much higher price points than existing drugs.
Oral drugs for the treatment of cancer are often the preferred choice for patients, generally presenting considerably fewer and less severe side effects than standard chemotherapy. And here’s how much more these drugs cost, over a span of about 15 years.
From the year 2000 to 2014, a total of 32 new orally administered cancer drugs were introduced. In order to gauge the constantly changing costs, a research team made a comparison between new cancer drugs introduced between 2000 and 2010, and those that came after 2010.
In the year 2000, the average launch price of a new oral cancer treatment came in at around $1,869 per month. As of 2014, this had spiked to an $11,325 a month for the drugs launched for the drugs launch that year. Mean monthly spending was found to increase by an average of 63% during a product’s first year on the market, when comparing products launched in 2000 to those launched in 2010.
Speaking on behalf of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, the study’s lead author Stacie Dusetzina expressed deep concern for those who are gradually being pushed into a position where they simply cannot afford the therapies they desperately need.
“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 flat copay,” said Dusetzina.
“The major trend here is that these products are just getting more expensive over time.”
She did not, however, speculate as to why costs are accelerating at such a worrying pace. However, industry analysts believe that along with cornering the market at least on a temporary basis, the fact that major pharmaceutical companies are producing consistently more effective drugs is to some extent allowing them to justify excessive price increases.
Ultimately however, it is the patients themselves who are losing out, and having to pay much more than they would have in years past.