It’s no surprise that costs of cancer drugs are high. Recent estimates put the average cost of cancer drugs at $10,000 per month with some therapies costing as much as $65,000 per month. If it weren’t for insurance, prices this high would put cancer drug therapy out of reach for most families. Even with insurance, many families cannot afford cancer drugs because of high patient cost sharing. Many insurance programs, such as the Medicare Part D program, set patient cost sharing as a percentage of the drug’s cost (usually in the 20% to 30% range) rather than as a fixed dollar amount. Medicare Part B, which covers most injectable cancer drugs, has a patient cost share of 20%. How many families can afford cost sharing of $2,000 to $3,000 per month?
Oncologists and their professional organizations are concerned about this and have taken steps to address the problem. The WSJ recently reported that Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has developed an on-line, interactive tool to help physicians and patients determine what cancer drugs are worth. I will discuss this tool in next week’s post. Today’s post will discuss a value framework for assessing the value of cancer drugs that was recently announced by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the professional organization representing oncologists.