If you've ever had trouble affording your medications and wanted to call your doctor on it, here's some encouraging news: Doctors aren't pleased about the prices either. Denouncing "profiteering" by pharmaceutical companies, more than 100 cancer doctors and researchers specializing in treating the blood cancer chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) argued the pressing need to lower cancer drug prices in a paper published last week in the journal Blood. And the doctors noted that the costs of prescription drugs, combined with medical illnesses, are the "the single most frequent cause of personal bankruptcies."
The paper highlighted the jaw-dropping prices of three cancer drugs approved for treating CML by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012: ponatinib (Iclusig), at $138,000 per year; omacetaxine (Synribo), at $28,000 for induction and $14,000 per maintenance course; and bosutinib (Bosulif), at about $118,000 per year. "Unaffordable drug prices in CML may be preventing many patients from accessing these life-saving drugs," say the doctors. The authors also note that of the 12 drugs approved by FDA last year for various cancer indications, "11 were priced above $100,000 per year."
The doctors argued that lowering the prices of these drugs will help make sure people can continue their therapy--and help CML patients live longer--which would result in higher revenues for pharmaceutical companies as well.
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We applaud the doctors for drawing attention to the widespread problem of crippling drug prices and challenging drug companies to do something about it. "In general, doctors should be up in arms at outrageous out-of-pocket drug costs to their patients," says Marvin M. Lipman, M.D., Consumer Reports' chief medical adviser. "Treating disease and extending life doesn't have to be always related to the bottom line."
According to our poll last year on drug costs, more than half of people in the survey who took at least one prescription drug said they had to reduce other household expenses or change how they manage their finances to pay for their medication, and many took some potentially dangerous measures to save money, all the while not discussing these financial difficulties with their doctor or pharmacist.
If drug costs are a concern for you, speak up--at the doctor's office and the pharmacy counter. Talk to your doctor and ask whether a lower-priced generic or another less costly drug is available that is just as safe and effective as the pricier one. And when you fill your prescription, tell the pharmacist you want the lowest price.
Price of drugs for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), reflection of the unsustainable cancer drug prices: perspective of CML Experts [Blood, April 25, 2013]