Cancer drugs’ high prices im­pede com­par­a­tive re­search: study

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS - —Sabriya Rice

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.

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