Rising cancer drug costs have become inreasingly worrisome for patients and health care providers. Despite the entry of competitors in the market, treatment costs continue to climb over time, according to a study recently published by the Journal of Clinical Oncology

According to the study, cancer drug costs typically increase over time rather than decrease. High drug costs can have an impact on the financial and mental wellbeing of patients with cancer. Other research suggests that drug costs also affect adherence, with patients skipping doses or stopping therapy to save money. These actions may seriously affect the survival of patients.

The authors set out to determine which market forces are impacting cancer drug costs and how they can be addressed.

In the study, the authors evaluated the costs of 24 injectable cancer drugs administered through Medicare Part B. All drugs received FDA approval between 1996 and 2012.
The costs of the therapies were compared based on average sales price, which does not take into account discounts, reimbursement, co-payments, or deductibles.
After an average follow-up of 8 years, the authors discovered the average costs for the drugs increased between 15% and 18% after adjusting for inflation, according to the study.
Notably, the costs increased significantly after launch and even after generic versions were available.
For example, the authors found that the cost of a lymphoma drug increased 29% since launch in 2011, averaging $19,482 per month.
Another cancer drug approved to treat leukemia and lymphoma was found to cost an average of $18,513. The cost of the drug increased 55% since it was approved in 2005, according to the authors.
Current laws prohibit Medicare from negotiating drug costs directly with manufacturers, which may contribute to higher spending, according to the study.
The authors said these findings highlight an urgent need for revised policies and laws that support the reduction of cancer costs. At current prices, many cancer drugs may be out of reach for patients, according to the study. The authors said they plan to continue conducting price comparison research and price-setting approaches among various countries in an effort to determine the best path to reduce cancer drug costs. 

In the clip below, Randy Burkholder, Vice President of Policy and Research at PhRMA, discusses the health care policy changes that are needed to help alleviate the financial hardships faced by cancer patients.


This article originally appeared on Specialty Pharmacy Times