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U.S. Oncologists Decry High Cost of Cancer Drugs
They suggest letting Medicare negotiate prices, back grassroots movement calling for change
-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, July 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Soaring costs for cancer drugs are hurting patient care in the United States, a group of top oncologists claim.
"High cancer-drug prices are affecting the care of patients with cancer and our health care system," Dr. Ayalew Tefferi, a hematologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said in a Mayo news release.
Tefferi and his colleagues made a number of recommendations on how to address the problem in a commentary published July 23 in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices is one of the suggestions the team of 118 leading cancer experts offered as a possible solution.
Along with their recommendations, the group also expressed support for a patient-based grassroots movement on change.org that is demanding action on the issue.
"The average gross household income in the U.S. is about $52,000 per year. For an insured patient with cancer who needs a drug that costs $120,000 per year, the out-of-pocket expenses could be as much as $25,000 to $30,000 -- more than half their average household income," Tefferi explained in the news release.
A study published earlier this year in the Journal of Economic Perspectives found that cancer drug prices have increased an average of $8,500 a year over the past 15 years.
"When you consider that cancer will affect one in three individuals over their lifetime, and [with] recent trends in insurance coverage [that] put a heavy financial burden on patients with out-of-pocket expenses, you quickly see that the situation is not sustainable," Tefferi said. "It's time for patients and their physicians to call for change."
The changes the commentary called for included:
The group wrote that "it should be possible to focus the attention of pharmaceutical companies on this problem and to encourage our elected representatives to more effectively advocate for the interests of their most important constituents among the stakeholders in cancer -- American cancer patients."
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about cancer drugs.
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