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Outrageous Cancer Drug Prices Spur Outcry

The medical community is finally speaking out about exorbitant cancer drug prices that often force patents to choose between paying for treatment and paying their mortgages. As highlighted in a recent report, the out-of-pocket costs for patients with insurance can often cost tens of thousands of dollars.

While new treatments are providing hope for cancer patients who may have faced a death sentence several years ago, the cost of those medications is skyrocketing. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, the average price of new cancer drugs in the U.S. increased five- to tenfold over 15 years, reaching more than $100,000 a year in 2012. When a patient requires a combination of several drugs, the annual cost can reach $300,000.

Patients “have to make difficult choices between spending their incomes [and liquidating assets] on potentially lifesaving therapies or forgoing treatment to provide for family necessities,” the doctors write. Due to the financial burden, the report estimates approximately 10 percent to 20 percent of cancer patients don’t take their treatment as prescribed.

More than 100 oncologists signed on to the new report, which was published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. The doctors hail from some of the most renowned cancer hospitals in the country, including the Mayo Clinic, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

While drug makers argue that the high prices are necessary to fund the research and development (R&D) of new treatments, critics argue that the pharmaceutical industry is simply charging what it thinks the market will bear. “What we’re fighting is the greed. The greed and the additional maneuvering that is being exercised after you’ve already recouped what you’ve invested. There is no control, no regulation,” Ayalew Tefferi, a hematologist at Mayo Clinic and a signator of the new report, told the WSJ.

To address the soaring cost of cancer drugs, the oncologists call for greater oversight over pharmaceutical companies, including the creation of a new regulatory body that would help set prices once drugs win approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Other proposed measures include allowing patients to import medications from Canada, requiring greater transparency by drug makers regarding their R&D costs, and allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices for seniors.

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