Cancer drugs; 60 minutes investigates the high cost and why doctors are furious.
Medical cost bankruptcy is a huge problem in the United States, and part of the problem has to do with the high cost of treatment for cancer due which is driven by the drugs that are used to treat it.
Much of the cost explosion was allowed by the Medicare part D plans that came into law in 2006, with no provision for the government to negotiate drug prices. Without government oversight, small insurers stand little chance of fairly negotiating those prices as well, which has become a huge piece of the American healthcare cost equation. Since then, some existing cancer drugs have tripled in price, costing those who are hoping for a cure or at least a longer life a huge part of their savings or in some cases, resulting in personal bankruptcy, after they have worked hard for years to build a nestegg. Drugs in the USA are often up to 80% more expensive than the same brand name drugs found in other countries, courtesy of this law which was written by the drug lobby, pushed through in the middle of the night with a bill written by big pharma. As a citizen, you should be appalled since those who voted for it were purchased and sold by the pharmaceutical industry, and the program was not funded for its costs to our society.
Obamacare has not changed this at all, since it did not address this costly problem, but it is addressing some of the donut hole which is a cost sharing Medicare oddity. Some doctors in the cancer care industry are now beginning to question the high costs, even though they are paid a commission on the drugs they recommend. While this is not a commentary on the business model of Oncology or the costs involved, when a doctor is given what amounts to a spif (incentive) and then supplies a more expensive drug that may not be any better than a significantly less expensive one, it perverts the professions intentions and betrays the public’s trust.
Most drugs do not cure cancer at all, but come up with inventive ways to give us some more time at a very high monthly cost, often with bad side effects. One doctor interviewed by 60 minutes yesterday used the term chutzpah ( audacity) as they attempt to justify prices that are as crazy as $40 dollar aspirin’s during hospital stays. They would love us all to believe that they need to recoup the cost of researching yet, many large drug companies are now purchasing small start-up biotech’s rather than creating the drugs themselves, often because the financial risk is less and their technologies create an incredible buzz, which helps in the drugs development.
It is costly to produce drugs however, what does the markup really need to be to make the drug profitable? Another thing we as a society need to discuss is that most cancer drugs were never designed to cure the cancer, but to extend life, and often some drugs need to be taken for a lifetime with a lifetime subscription cost that can bankrupt you. My sister in law is an example of this as she was diagnosed with bone cancer and is taking a medication solely designed to keep her cancer in remission, while having to be tested every other month to see how long she has to live. This is a horrible way to live, yet, since she is a breast cancer survivor, it should make us wonder why they are not researching a cure that solves the problem altogether. History shows us that drug companies will often fight to keep a cure off the market (a great example is the diagnosis of H. Pylori) where no one took the doctor who figured out why ulcers occurred was taken seriously, while the drug companies were making billions off their stomach buffering medications which did not solve the problem.
Developing cancer treatments are now attempting to cure individual cancers by helping your own immune system fight it, by undoing the mechanisms cancer cells use to hide in plain site. So far, the results of these methods look promising. In a recent issue of Stansberry’s Investment Advisory (a financial newsletter I highly recommend), they had discussed a new class of drugs that is being developed by Bristol Myers – Squibb that can do just that. The newest class of drugs in development can affect Oncogenes that makes cancer cells both immortal and invisible to the regular immune system.
On the other hand, there is likely a common thread to Cancer that is not being researched, because that is just not big pharma’s business model. They want to find expensive treatments that people want badly, as they are the only official hope they may have at beating the disease process. Big institutions like Sloan Kettering while highly respected, would likely go out of business if we cured cancer, rather than sold treatments for it.
Other doctors who practice nutritional management explain a different model of free radicals, and inflammation as the reason we are having these problems. The problem for us, the consumer is that only the official medical Oncology model is deemed credible and it is the only one covered, while attracting most of the research dollars. The nutritional model is often not taken seriously, since it is not officially sanctioned by society, even though some of these alternative models are less expensive overall and may be a healthier way to beat cancer, if only we funded them better with research dollars. Unfortunately, when people are scared of their own demise, they often only consider the official model offered by our current allopathic system which treats the symptom (the cancer), rather than the environment (where the cancer lives and feeds).
Check out 60 minutes report here