Peter Bach has stirred the pot with his recent article, “Cancer: Unpronounceable Drugs, Incomprehensible Prices”. Apologists for the drug industry like to argue that new anti-cancer drug, Zykadia (generic=ceritinib) is far superior to the current $11,000/month drug, Xalcori (crizotinib) and is therefore worth $13,000/month. At present the main argument for this superiority refers back to The New England Journal of Medicine article whose lead author has been an advisor and consultant to the company that makes the drug. If further evidence verifies the superiority it doesn’t argue that our medical system can afford the ever-growing list of multi-thousand dollar drugs. See the Hepatitis C treatment, Sovaldi, at $30,000/month for a total of $84,000 a treatment.
Bach rightly concludes that, “Regardless of the estimate, the pricing of new drugs for cancer and now other common diseases has come unglued from the rationale the industry has long espoused. Instead, pricing is explained by a phenomenon of increasing boldness by the industry against a backdrop of regulators and insurers who have no legal authority to dictate or even propose alternative pricing models.”. At present the model is that the companies charge what they do “because they can”. That won’t work. This free market cliché is unsustainable. The best (?only) solution lies in a medical payment system that gives universal coverage and the power of negotiated pricing with the drug companies. At another time we’ll discuss the lack of transparency of that industry when discussing the true cost of new drug research.
This last January two cancer specialists published an article explaining “Why Oncologists Should Support Single-Payer National Health Insurance”. In his Huffington Post Blog, Dr. John Geyman discusses this problem and points out that not only is the ACA is powerless to control drug prices but it is also unable to control the cost-shifting that is exposing all of us to unsupportable medical costs. Every person concerned with the future of health care and the economy in the United States should read these critiques. The future is now.