Op-Ed of the Day: The cost of cancer

Why does health care cost so much?

This opinion piece from the New York Times explains one way. Cancer drugs cost a lot.

Doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center recently decided not to use a particular cancer drug, Zaltrap, because it was more expensive – but not any more effective – than a similar drug. Three doctors from the hospital wrote the op-ed:

The typical new cancer drug coming on the market a decade ago cost about $4,500 per month (in 2012 dollars); since 2010 the median price has been around $10,000. Two of the new cancer drugs cost more than $35,000 each per month of treatment.

The burden of this cost is borne, increasingly, by patients themselves — and the effects can be devastating. In 2006, one-quarter of cancer patients reported that they had used up all or most of their savings paying for care; a study last year reported that 2 percent of cancer patients were driven into bankruptcy by their illness and its treatment. One in 10 cancer patients now reports spending more than $18,000 out of pocket on care.

So if a doctor and patient could choose to use an effective and less expensive drug, they would. Right? Yet Zaltrap is expected to make $150 million dollars in sales next year.

In most industries something that offers no advantage over its competitors and yet sells for twice the price would never even get on the market.

Unless more hospitals and heath care systems start doing better comparison shopping, this is one part of health care costs that will remain higher than necessary.

–Stephanie Curtis, social media host