A group of 118 leading cancer experts have developed a list of proposals designed to reduce the cost of cancer drugs. Also in support of a grassroots patient protest movement to pressure drug companies to charge what they deem a fair value for treatments.
Experts include former presidents of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Society of Hematology. An insured cancer patient who needs a drug that costs $120,000 a year would pay as much as $30,000 in out-of-pocket costs, which is more than half of the average U.S. household income of $52,000.
Among the group's recommendations is the call for a new regulatory body that would help set prices once drugs win approval by the U.S. FDA. New regulatory body would be made up of disease experts, company representatives, government entities including Medicare and other major insurers, and patients.
Other ideas include urging cancer specialist groups to consider cost when making treatment recommendations. The proposals are the latest effort by cancer doctors to raise awareness of the need for more rational prices for cancer treatments.
Last month, doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York created a calculator called the DrugAbacus that adjusts the price of 54 cancer drugs to reflect the side effects they cause and the benefit they bring in extending patient lives.
In the latest effort, the cancer experts want lawmakers to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices for seniors covered by the federal insurance program for the elderly.
They also suggest the Patient-Centered Outcomes. Research Institute, created through the Affordable Care Act, and similar groups, include drug prices in their assessments of the value of treatments.
The group also wants the U.S. government to allow the importation of cancer drugs from other countries such as Canada, where drug costs are cheaper, and to reform patent laws to make it harder for drug companies to block access to generic drugs.
The point of the movement is not to undermine drug companies' right to a fair profit, but, patients are suffering and therefore some solutions are being offered.