Living with cancer can be difficult as besides dealing with their health condition, cancer patients also have to spend money for their treatment. To make things worse, the cost of cancer drugs has jumped over the last decade making it more difficult for some patients to complete their therapy.
A report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics revealed that the cost of cancer drugs has significantly jumped within just a decade. A month's supply of a branded cancer drug in the U.S. now costs about $10,000, which is twice its price of $5,000 ten years ago.
The report revealed that the global spending on cancer drugs has increased from just $37 billion a decade ago to $91 billion in 2013 and the soaring prices of these medications increase treatment costs for both patients and insurers. But what drives up the costs?
Oncologists who are moving away from their private practices to work for hospitals apparently contribute to the rising cost of cancer medication. Because hospitals have high overhead costs, they charge up to twice the cost of an injectable drug compared to in a doctor's office.
The drug bevacizumab (Avastin), used for treatment of kidney, colon and lung cancer, for instance, only costs about $2,500 per dose in a doctor's office but this could cost more than thrice at $8,500 per dose in a hospital out-patient clinic. Similarly, pertuzumab (Perjeta), used for the treatment of breast cancer can be availed for about $4,000 in a doctor's office but the cost jumps more than double to $10,000 at the hospital.
"Reimbursed costs for hospitals are at least double those in doctors' offices," said IMS Health senior vice president Murray Aitken. "This is bringing sharply higher costs to payers, particularly over the past two years."
New and more innovative drugs also tend to be expensive. Although patients may spend less when opting for old cancer medications that are available as generics, most of the new albeit more expensive drugs can prolong life by up to six months. No wonder, people are willing to buy these new drugs despite of their prohibitive costs.
Some cancer specialists, however, have raised concerns that the excessive costs of some drugs are driven by aims for profit.