Cancer drugs’ high prices impede comparative research: study
The high prices of some cancer drugs drew attention from oncologists last week.
Two National Cancer Institute researchers wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that steep prices make it difficult or impossible to conduct randomized trials comparing the effectiveness of different therapies.
Meanwhile, an American Society of Clinical Oncologists’ task force met to develop an algorithm for determining the relative value of drugs, including considering their cost. Taking the costbenefit of therapies into consideration has long been hugely controversial in U.S. medicine and politics.
The NIH researchers compared the brand and generic versions of two prostate cancer treatments and estimated it would cost nearly $70 million just for buying the drugs to conduct a trial. It costs $500 to $700 a month to treat a patient with ketoconazole, a generic medication for prostate cancer, compared with $7,000 a month for Johnson & Johnson’s Zytiga.
Meanwhile, the ASCO task force is working on an algorithm, perhaps made available to doctors on hand-held devices, that would assign a value measuring the clinical benefit for patients compared with the costs. “If a $7,000 drug is substantially better in some way, it would get a higher-value score,” said Dr. Lowell Schnipper, the task force chairman.