The Unnecessary Cost of Cancer
Recently, a 60 Minutes special about the cost of cancer drugs was rebroadcast. In the broadcast, cancer specialists from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center were profiled for their stance against the exorbitant cost of cancer drugs. Dr. Leonard Saltz, one of the chief specialists at the hospital and a leading authority on colon cancer, stated, “We’re in a situation where a cancer diagnosis is one of the leading causes of personal bankruptcy…and remember that many of these drugs, most of them, don’t replace everything else. They get added to it. And if you figure one drug costs $120,000 and the next drug’s not going to cost less, you’re at a quarter-million dollars in drug costs just to get started.”
For Dr. Saltz, the revelation began in 2012, when the FDA approved the drug Zaltrap for advanced colon cancer. The results were similar to another drug, Avastin, but it cost over twice as much. Sloan Kettering ended up not using Zaltrap simply because the cost to patients would be too much.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. As Erin Havel reported for theHuffington Post, she is battling chronic myelogenous leukemia. With insurance, her chemotherapy pills cost $3,000/month in 2007. Since then, the cost has risen to a whopping $9,000/month.
There are several factors contributing to these issues. First, drug companies can charge whatever they want for their products. Medicare, in turn, must pay that price and nothing less. Also, commission from cancer drugs is “the single biggest source of income for private practice oncologists…they’re the ones who buy them wholesale from the pharmaceutical companies, and sell them retail to their patients. The mark-up for Medicare patients is guaranteed by law: the average in the case of Zaltrap was six percent.”
Another major factor is the power of pharmaceuticals in congressional lobbying. Pharma companies actually donate more to lobbying than even defence or big oil. From 2003-2012, the top 11 drug companies raked in $711.4 billion dollars in net profit. This number was expected to reach $1 trillion by 2014. This big money keeps the status quo going. According to an annual report released by the Canadian government’s Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, just from 2006-2011, that looks like an 8% price increase each year for prescription drugs in the US.
Previous comments from Life Choice on this phenomenon of the business of sickness can be viewed here.
We at Life Choice feel for the people; it is not enough to be stricken with cancer but then hit with the high costs of treatment further exasperates their stress; it is nothing short of robbery in 3 piece suit. So many natural treatments have been banned because cancer is big business with deep pockets and lobbied loyalty. Ethics fall right behind the debit and credit cards kept in the Bank of the Nonconsciousness.
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