ROCHESTER, Minn., July 23 (UPI) -- More than 100 cancer experts drafted a series of proposals aimed at lowering the cost of cancer drugs, which they say will benefit both patient care and the healthcare industry overall.
The series of proposals, outlined in a commentary published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, is aimed mostly at government agencies monitoring drug development, reforming the patent system as it applies to pharmaceuticals and negotiating prices for drugs.
"High cancer drug prices are affecting the care of patients with cancer and our health care system," said Dr. Ayalew Tefferi, a hematologist at Mayo Clinic, in a press release. "The average gross household income in the U.S. is about $52,000 per year. For an insured patient with cancer who needs a drug that costs $120,000 per year, the out-of-pocket expenses could be as much as $25,000 to $30,000 -- more than half their average household income."
Cancer drug prices have increased in price by about $8,500 per year for the past 15 years, the experts wrote in their commentary. The average annual cost of the drugs increased by 5 to 10 times during the last 15 years to $100,000 per year, and cost of drugs for each additional year cancer patients live has nearly quadrupled in the last 20 years, from $54,000 in 1995 to $207,000 in 2013, according to the commentary.
The 118 experts who worked on the draft outline areas they say should be addressed to help ease costs for cancer treatments: Create a post FDA-approval review board to propose fair prices for drugs; allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices for its patients; allow the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, created by the Affordable Care Act, to assess treatments and include their costs in those assessments; allow importation of cheaper drugs from Canada; pass legislation preventing drug companies from slowing the patent process or delaying patient access to cheaper generic versions of drugs; and encourage organizations that represent both doctors and patients to lobby the government and public opinion in favor of reforms for cancer drug prices.
The experts said the only way to begin working to solve the problem with cancer drug prices is to force pharmaceutical companies to recognize and pay attention to the issue.
"When you consider that cancer will affect 1 in 3 individuals over their lifetime, and [with] recent trends in insurance coverage [that] put a heavy financial burden on patients with out-of-pocket expenses, you quickly see that the situation is not sustainable," Tefferi, said. "It's time for patients and their physicians to call for change."