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Increase In Oral Cancer Drug Prices Make Treatment More Difficult

Capecitabina, an oral chemotherapy drug for treating advanced bowel cancer - Photo from RX Stars

A new study has found that certain oral cancer drugs have drastically increased in price since 2000, ABC News reports. This comes on the heels of an ongoing discussion regarding the rising costs of drugs in general – a fact that has been putting the squeeze on many patients.

Findings published by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill examined information from a prescription drug database. The data they gathered showed a sharp increase in cancer treatment drugs, even after adjusted for inflation. In addition, newer drugs were found to be more expensive than existing drugs.

Oral drugs fight cancer in different ways, and tend to be less stressful on patients when compared to more traditional chemotherapy or radiation treatments. These medications have become increasingly popular since 2000 with the introduction of 32 new therapies from 2000 to 2014.

According to the data, the average cost for oral cancer medicines was $1,869 a month in 2000. In 2014, it had gone up to $11,325 a month. In a comparison of products launched from 2000 to 2010, and products released after 2010, researchers found a 63% rise in average monthly spending. Drugs launched between 2000 and 2010 cost an average of $5,529 per month and $9,013 per month for drugs after 2010.

Study author Stacie Dusetzina of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center said, “The major trend here is that these products are just getting more expensive over time.” She notes that while there has been a need to create more anti-cancer medications, the increasing prices may make it difficult for patients to avail of them. She adds,

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.

Shawn Osborne, VP of Pharmacy and Supply Chain Services at University Hospitals of Cleveland says that he believes these oral cancer drugs are gaining traction because they have shown to be effective. “It’s a more targeted therapy that’s typically more pleasant,” he said. As a result, manufacturers are charging higher prices, partly also because it costs more to make these new drugs. He is optimistic however, that inflating prices will level off eventually.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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