Anthony B James DNM(C), ND, MD(AM), DOM(C), DPHC(h.c.), PhD, RAC, SMOKH
In a Mayo Clinic Medical Journal article published July 23, 2015 a huge group of the nations top and nationally known and respected oncologist and cancer Doc’s described how many American’s diagnosed with Cancer are losing their life savings and being bankrupted by the escalating cost of cancer drugs. They additionally described details on how these “out of control” price escalations are adversely affecting the health care system as a whole.1
“In the United States, the average price of new cancer drugs increased 5- to 10-fold over 15 years, to more than $100,000 per year in 2012.” The article cited a study by Howard et al2 documenting the rapid (rabid!) escalation in cancer drug prices by an average of $8500.00 per year over the last 15 years. Furthermore the article stated “The cost of drugs for each additional year lived (after adjusting for inflation) has increased from $54,000 in 1995 to $207,000 in 2013.2 This increase is causing harm to patients with cancer and their families.
Dr. Ayalew Tefferi, a hemotologist at the Mayo Clinic told NPR “Many of them spend their life savings on cancer drugs and end up being bankrupt. The average U.S. family makes $52,000 annually. Cancer drugs can easily cost a $120,000 a year. Out-of-pocket expenses for the insured can run $25,000 to $30,000 — more than half of a typical family’s income.” To drive home his critical assessment of the crises in the industry, Dr. Tefferi recruited 117 other cancer doc’s of various specializations to join with him in publishing a commentary and recommendations in the medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
Some of the major issues have to do with how the drug companies have lobied successfully to not only interfere with Medicare negotiations for patient access and lower cost but to have actually supported legislation to completely blocking Medicare from doing so for any reason! Big Pharma also holds back and prevent successful drugs like Novartis from going generic as long as possible. Generic versions of drugs are generally much lower in cost than non.
Additionally Dr. Teffari pointed out that their is no correlation between cost and effectiveness with many of the highest costing drugs being routinely prescribed “not working well”. He made the irrational recommendation that their should be some reasonable correlation between a specific drugs actual effectiveness in doing what it is advertized to do and it’s cost! Some of the highest costing drugs being prescribed in the system today have the lowest verifiable efficacy.
Even if the drugs work somewhat, the high and rising cost is a huge factor in compliance. With many patients choosing to forgo their medications simply because they cannot afford them and or because of bankrupting their families and their families future. How many families lose their entire financial and educational heritage because of being milked and bankrupted by cancer treatments eventually costing millions in some cases.
Considering the average house hold income is near $52,000 per year, and the average cost of a new cancer drugs are priced over $120,000, and the average co-pay is 20 to 30=% … do the math. The average co-pay for one drug per year in treatment could be between $24,000 to $36,000! Of course their are additional associated cost and many patients are prescribed more than one drug at a time.
The Mayo article went on to say “half the average household income and possibly more than the median take-home pay for a year. Patients with cancer then have to make difficult choices between spending their incomes (and liquidating assets) on potentially lifesaving therapies or foregoing treatment to provide for family necessities (food, housing, education). This decision is even more critical for senior citizens who are more frequently affected by cancers and have lower incomes and limited assets.6 Because of costs, about 10% to 20% of patients with cancer do not take the prescribed treatment or compromise it.7 ”
Contrary to opinion and despite the 2- to 3-fold higher spending per capita, the United States is not “number 1” in health care parameters compared with other industrialized nations that spend far less per capita. Rather, the United States often ranks well below average in several comparative studies that assess a number of measures of health care quality.14 Money diverted as profit does not necessarily contribute to better health outcomes, or even to innovation and development of novel therapies.”
Bottom line is Drug and Pharmaceutical company GREED and exploitation of conflict of interest is why their is run away inflation of cost not cost of development and delivery as is often cited.
Their is no clear solution. The Mayo article suggested a cancer patient grassroots movement similar to what was seen in response to the AIDS advocacy strategies. Also recommend was a more transparent and relevant FDA approval process proposing fair prices based on actual efficacy!
Of course, there is the whole consideration of whether the conventional cancer treatment model is effective in the first place! Natural health care advocates such as myself question the entire cancer treatment industry from top to bottom. We know their are many effective remedies for cancer which do not involve the use of pharmaceutical drugs and debilitating invasive treatment. These holistic, natural and even spiritually based cancer treatments are not based on GREED and PROFIT over patient care and quality of life. They are rather based on medicine as an expression of love, compassion and care using the least harmful, least invasive and least costly means to effect a cure. Scientifically validated Noninvasive, Natural Cures for Cancer are found in many indigenous, traditional medicine systems such as Thai Traditional Medicine, Ayurveda, Traditional Naturopathy and Native American Medicine. Well respected systems such as Gerson, Hippocrates, Borzynski, Rife, Weston Price and Medical Cannabis and others offer effective and practical solutions as well. Effective remedies and answers to the cancer epidemic are found in research into toxicity and deficiencies, nutrition and life style and their are many elegant and practical solutions available today which are far more cost effective than what the conventional profit based medical cancer industry has to offer today.
(1) Kantarjian, H. and Rajkumar, S.V. Why are cancer drugs so expensive in the United States, and what are the solutions?. Mayo Clin Proc. 2015; 90: 500–504
(2) Howard, D.H., Bach, P.B., Berndt, E.R., and Conti, R.M. Pricing in the market for anticancer drugs. J Economic Perspect. 2015; 29: 139–162https://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.29.1.139. (Accessed June 4, 2015.)
(6) Medicare at a glance. Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation website. http://kff.org/medicare/fact-sheet/medicare-at-a-glance-fact-sheet/. Published September 2, 2014. Accessed April 1, 2015.
(7) Zafar, S.Y., Peppercorn, J.M., Schrag, D. et al. The financial toxicity of cancer treatment: a pilot study assessing out-of-pocket expenses and the insured cancer patient’s experience. Oncologist. 2013; 18: 381–390
(14) Kantarjian H. Does the United States have the best health-care system in the world? ASCO Post website. http://www.ascopost.com/issues/august-15,-2014/does-the-united-states-have-the-best-health-care-system-in-the-world.aspx. Published August 15, 2014. Accessed April 1, 2015.
Alternative Cancer Resources
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