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Orally Administered Cancer Drugs See Spike In Cost

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New cancer pills have become significantly more expensive upon their market entry compared with those from 15 years ago. These high introductory prices prove to be a cause of concern given that medication costs rapidly climb over time.

The average cost of orally administered cancer treatments has risen dramatically — six times more than those introduced in 2000 — even after prices were adjusted for inflation. Those drugs from more than a decade earlier cost $1,869 a month on average, compared to the $11,325 for those approved in 2014.

“The major trend here is that these products are just getting more expensive over time,” said study author Dr. Stacie Dusetzina of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who studied data from a prescription drug database.

This increase in prices goes alongside a push toward orally administered medications for the disease in the last decade, added Dusetzina, warning of the decreasing access of the patients to the drugs they are prescribed.

Here’s one of the large price increases: since its launch in 2001, the price of a cancer drug skyrocketed from $3,346 to $8,479, translating to a 7.5 percent average yearly change. When Dusetzina compared drugs launched from 2000 to 2010 those made available afterwards, there surfaced a 63 percent hike in the mean monthly spending during the product’s first year on the market.

She also said that patients are being increasingly burdened with payments for these pricey specialty medications as plans lean toward higher deductibles as well as co-insurance, where patients shell out for a drug cost percentage instead of a flat co-pay.

Shawn Osborne of University Hospitals of Cleveland echoed the growing popularity of oral cancer therapies because of the more targeted treatment and better patient outcomes that they bring. It’s usually more pleasant than infusion chemotherapy, Osborne said.

However, manufacturers are also charging more for them, with the novelty of the drugs serving as a factor in the pricing. Newer drugs are more rigorously monitored, which entails more expensive infrastructure, he explained.

Rising drug prices have been under public scrutiny, with U.S. drug spending hitting $425 billion in 2015, or a 12 percent increase from 2014. The net spending on prescription drugs last year, too, jumped 8.5 percent to $309.5 billion.

The findings were published on April 28 in the journal JAMA Oncology.

Photo: Jonathan Silverberg | Flickr

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