Articles in several sources reported on a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (WSJ article) which examined the benefits of some expensive cancer drugs. The study found that Erbitux, for example, which costs $80,000 for an 18-week course of treatment, extended survival for about 1.2 months. Other very expensive drugs had similar limited benefits. The authors’ perspective was that the country really needs to think about whether these drugs are worth the cost. One of the issues with many of these new drugs is that they tend to work very well for some people but make little or no difference for many. We do not yet have reliable biomarkers to help physicians determine in advance who is most likely to benefit. It is a hard choice to deny coverage across the board when a product may in fact help even a few patients be cured or have extended survival. Refusing any coverage would also likely mean that fewer drugs would be developed, which is not good for improving health care quality. It also would lead to concerns about a two-tiered health system, because wealthy people would be able to afford the drugs in any event. But that is an interesting problem in itself, because it is hard to justify denying care to people who can afford it just because others can’t. These drugs do represent one of the fundamental dilemmas for our system. When pricing is basically in the hands of the manufacturer and physicians are unconstrained in their ordering practices, we end up paying very high prices for many new products. That problem is being exacerbated by the costs associated with personalized medicine and exotic biotech drugs. It will get much worse in the coming years. It will be important to any cost control efforts to figure out how to either bring the costs down or limit the number of people who are given these products.
✅ Subscribe via Email
About this Blog
The Healthy Skeptic is a website about the health care system, and is written by Kevin Roche, who has many years of experience working in the health industry. Mr. Roche is available to assist health care companies through consulting arrangements through Roche Consulting, LLC and may be reached at [email protected].
Healthy Skeptic Podcast
This is an outstanding report on total global drug spending and trends, with projections out to 2025. It helps you understand this important area of health care, which does much...
June 1, 2021
MedPAC 2019 Report to Congress
June 18, 2019
What do you get when you combine a company with a commodity business model, that out of desperation massively overpays for another company that has a commodity business model? $10...
July 27, 2022
The “stupid” model for health care venture capital investing is alive and well. Everside health, which operates primary care clinics and has grown by acquiring other failing health care businesses,...
July 26, 2022
Apparently not even a cute name can save you if you have a stupid business. I constantly bemoan the mis-application of capital and health care is Exhibit A. Olive, another...
July 26, 2022
Access ACO Care Management Chronic Disease Comparative Effectiveness Consumer Directed Health Consumers Devices Disease Management Drugs EHRs Elder Care End-of-Life Care FDA Financings Genomics Government Health Care Costs Health Care Quality Health Care Reform Health Insurance Health Insurance Exchange HIT HomeCare Hospital Hospital Readmissions Legislation M&A Malpractice Meaningful Use Medicaid Medical Care Medicare Medicare Advantage Mobile Pay For Performance Pharmaceutical Physicians Providers Regulation Repealing Reform Telehealth Telemedicine Wellness and Prevention Workplace