High Price of Cancer Drugs 'One of Biggest Issues in Healthcare'

Zosia Chustecka

May 23, 2013

In This Article

Impact of the Paper

There have been many positive reactions to the paper, Dr. Kantarjian said, including many from oncologists. This shows that, in direct contrast to what is often said, "oncologists care about cancer drug prices in addition to efficacy and toxicity." He reported that discussions among his peers revealed that 90% of oncologists would prescribe the cheaper option if drugs were of similar efficacy and tolerability.

Dr. Kantarjian said that he was also contacted by a number of pharmaceutical company executives who admitted that "they were hiding their heads in the sand" on this issue. Although the high prices offer short-term gain, they are creating a lot of conflict with patients and healthcare systems.

The cost of drug therapy is a "growing concern," Dr. Lӧwenberg said. The impact of this paper reaches beyond leukemia because there is a general trend for new drugs to be expensive. "That is why this article is so important," he noted.

There was an "explosion of news" about this paper. It was featured in periodicals, newspapers, on television news segments. "It had really high-profile coverage," Dr. Lӧwenberg noted. For a paper in Blood to receive such publicity is "very unusual.... In fact this was unique.... It was like a bomb exploding."

"It is both extraordinary and unprecedented to see physician activism on the high cost of drugs," said Eric Topol, MD, professor of translation genomics at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, and editor-in-chief of Medscape. "This is an enormous issue that transcends cancer drugs, and applies to almost all biologics." For example, treatment for the rare cystic fibrosis G551D mutation costs $294,000 a year.

"It is great to see physicians engaged in such a critical issue, applying much needed pressure to get this problem on track," Dr. Topol added.

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