The Business of Cancer

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The cancer drug model is broken, with profiteering coming way ahead of true innovation and the patient.

It’s a paradox at the heart of the pharmaceutical industry: if drugs cured anyone, there wouldn’t be a market for the drugs and that’s especially the case when it comes to treating cancer.

Drug companies make the bulk of their profits from new cancer drugs, and prices for the drugs have increased 10-fold in the past 15 years with one course of immunotherapy treatment now costing $475,000. The patients are coming in a distant second, and in some cases can no longer get the treatment they need.

Even if a cancer patient can somehow afford these new drugs, they aren’t always helping people live longer. This is mainly because the drugs are essentially the same as the older generation. A review of the cancer drugs launched between 2002 and 2014 to treat solid tumors concluded that they offered only marginal benefits over older drugs and extended a patient’s life by just 2.1 months.

But that’s not the point, at least not for the drug company. The key is getting a ‘new’ drug onto the market, which then enjoys a 20-year exclusive patent, including the research period and during the 12 years of that monopoly when the drug is on the market, the price of the drug can be hiked. Once the protection of the patent expires, the price of a cancer drug typically drops by around 78 percent.

The whole model has been set up to beat cancer later, when everyone other than the drug companies wants to beat cancer now, says the action group Dying for a Cure.

It’s a view echoed by Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research in London, who said in his keynote speech at the 2014 World Oncology Forum, “The global system for discovering new cancer drugs is broken and failing to turn scientific advances into enough innovative new medicines.”

Even cancer specialists, oncologists, are starting to cry foul. Some are saying the pharmaceutical industry has crossed a moral line and gone from profit-making to profiteering at the expense of the most desperate patients.

 

Price testing

The proving ground for cancer drug prices is the United States, which sets the bar for the rest of the world. But it’s a free market with no obvious gravitational pull; instead, it’s buoyed by the hopes of cancer patients and the pharmaceutical industry’s claims that the new therapies are costly to develop.

But these protests sound a little hollow. In fact, the true cost of a new cancer drug “is not linked to anything rational,” says Vinay Prasad, a cancer specialist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Essentially, drug companies put whatever price they want on a new cancer drug because they can…

Cancer drug prices are increasing by around 11 percent every year. In 2015, worldwide spending on cancer drugs was $107 billion, and it’s expected to rise to $150 billion by 2020. This increase is entirely due to price hikes and not because more people are being treated.

Put another way, the average cost of one year of cancer care per patient was less than $10,000 in the late 1990s; it increased to between $30,000 and $50,000 by 2005 and was above $100,000 by 2012.

This price inflation amounts to exploitation of the desperate. “It represents to many cancer experts a crossing of a moral line between reasonable profits and profiteering in a situation involving a human catastrophe,” wrote Hagup Kantarjian from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

 

What Doctor’s Don’t Tell You

October 2018

Cancer is a business, period. And with the growing statistics of increasing cancer rates, prevention is key. We offer many protocols at the office to help address this growing concern. Nutrition is key versus over screening, which has led to more false positives and unnecessary biopsies. Many doctors are checking genetic markers and pushing many into further unnecessary procedures as well. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Your lifestyle controls your destiny, not your genetics.

Dr. J

One Comment Add yours

  1. James says:

    Could cancer be a form of population control?

    Like

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