Oral Cancer Drug Costs Skyrocket

The cost of oral cancer drugs spiked six-fold within the last 14 years.

A recent report found that 1 month of new oral cancer drugs were approximately 6 times more expensive than cancer drugs introduced in 2000.

Researchers used data from the TruvenHealth MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters database to analyze how much commercial health insurance companies and patients paid for prescriptions for orally-administered cancer drugs from 2000 and 2014.

The cost of new drugs was on average $11,325 per month, whereas drugs launched in 2000 cost an average of $1869.

"The major trend here is that these products are just getting more expensive over time," said study author Stacie Dusetzina, PhD.

The authors of the study also said these high prices may be passed onto the patient over time, which affects access to the drug and the patient’s ability to properly adhere to the regimen.

Researchers found that imatinib (Gleevac) increased from $3346 per month in 2001 to $8479 in 2014, which is an approximately 7.5% annual increase.

Though commercially insured health plans have had fair coverage of oral cancer drugs, patients are increasingly bearing the financial burden of these drugs.

"Patients are increasingly taking on the burden of paying for these high-cost specialty drugs as plans move toward use of higher deductibles and co-insurance -- where a patient will pay a percentage of the drug cost rather than a flat copay," said Dr. Dusetzina.