Oncology groups and doctors fight for lower-priced cancer treatments

Oncology groups such as the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) are working on tools to help measure the value that pricey new treatments provide. However, some doctors are taking matters into their own hands.

Oncologists are progressively avoiding the prescription of medications that have little to no effect on cancers, which could mean trouble for drugmakers relying on expensive therapies to drive their sales figures.

Peter Bach, director of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Center for Health Policy and Outcomes in New York, says: “There are drugs that don’t make much sense given how much they cost, given their small benefits. There are drugs that can cost up to $10,000 a month that provide, at the median, a few weeks or less than a month of additional life, but with substantial toxicity.”

Doctors specifically pointed to meds such as Eli Lilly’s Cyramza, which won its first FDA nod for stomach cancer and went on to gain approval in colon cancer. Roche’s Avastin and Sanofi’s Zaltrap already compete in this market, yet Cyramza’s price is double that of Avastin.

Doctors have been growing increasingly concerned and vocal about their positions, too, and have urged others to join the fight against high prices. Back in 2012, Sanofi halved the price of Zaltrap after three doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering that thanks to the high prices, their hospital wouldn’t be using it. And in July, doctors at the Mayo Clinic published a price-lowering plan and encouraged patients to call for reforms.

NCCN chief, Dr Robert Carlson, says: “A company that has an effective drug that’s appropriately priced should welcome (the new assessments). If a drug is overpriced, that’s very important information for everybody.”

By Yasmita Kumar


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