Vital Signs The Analyst's Perspective - July 2015 Issue
More than 115 doctors are pressing for action to lower the astronomical costs of cancer drugs. Many more doctors are joining the ranks to fight this battle for their patients.
The Analyst’s Perspective by Aish Vivekanandan, Industry Analyst, Life Sciences, North America
Last year the FDA approved one of the most expensive drugs for cancer, Amgen’s Blincyto, which costs about $65,000 a month to treat a single patient with lymphoblastic leukemia. These phenomenal costs do not come as a surprise to many of us anymore. Over the years there has been an outcry to reduce costs, but to no avail. However, the push back from these high-profile doctors could finally make drug makers succumb. Here is what’s happening:
As complaints grow about exorbitant drug prices, pharmaceutical companies are coming under pressure to disclose their financials regarding R&D and marketing costs. Physicians are demanding some of their recommendations be included into actionable changes to reduce these costs. Some of the recommended practices include allowing Medicare to negotiate new drug prices. In addition, the movement suggests the FDA or physicians should decide on the benefit magnitude of a drug before the target price is set. President Obama is recommending that the proposal for allowing Medicare part D to negotiate prices be added to budget proposals—a promising sign of acceptance. There are other changes that are being pushed forward as well; in particular, legislation to make it harder for drug manufacturers to extend their patents.
If this fight to reduce cost is won, regardless of all the heavy lobbying, the doctors will make history. Drug makers insist that such legislations will curtail innovation and research in this field. However, what they fail to notice is the societal impact where, in addition to being diagnosed with cancer, people who are insured are spending close to an average of $30,000 a year on treatment. With healthcare moving toward a value-based system, changes will have to be made to reduce this burden.
About this report
This issue of Vital Signs, released in August 2015, discusses The Real Fight Against Cancer: The Struggle to make Drugs Affordable, OPKO Health's acquisition of Bio-Reference Laboratories, Health Insurance Company Mergers – How will Consumers Fare?, and Illumina's acquisition of GenoLogics.