Monday, June 22, 2015

60 Minutes Expose on “The High Cost of Cancer Drugs”

Last night CBS reran their expose of the high cost of cancer drugs in the U.S. which was narrated by Leslie Stahl -

I was appalled the first time I watched this and doubly appalled the second time I saw it. Here’s what I remember from watching it:

  1. The cost of cancer drugs is ridiculously high – no matter where you live.
  2. Cancer patients in the U.S. pay significantly more for the same exact drug – e.g. Avastin – than cancer victims in other countries.
  3. By law, drug companies in the U.S. get to charge anything they want for these drugs.
  4. Dying cancer patients often go broke/bankrupt trying to pay for these exorbitantly expensive drugs.
  5. The drugs don’t work miracles (like actually cure something) and often just extend lives by weeks or months.
  6. New cancer drugs rarely offer any important advances in effectiveness or patient benefits.
  7. Cancer doctors get kick-backs for prescribing the newest, more expensive cancer drugs.
  8.  The only good news is that the good folks at Memorial Sloan Kettering, one of the nation's premier cancer centers, led by Dr. Leonard Saltz is chief of gastrointestinal oncology , have a moral backbone and decided to stop prescribing the newest, prohibitively expensive  and not particularly more effective cancer drug.
  9. They not only decided to stop prescribing it, they wrote a New York Times OP-ED article stating why they decided to do so.
Here's a link to Sloan-Kettering's  OP-ED co-written by Peter B. Bach, Leonard B. Saltz and Robert E. Wittes (my new heroes).

Shockingly, “Right after their editorial was published, the drug's manufacturer, Sanofi, cut the price of Zaltrap by more than half” said Dr. Peter Bach Sloan’s in-house expert on drug costs.

I recommend that you watch this and, if you live in the U.S., write your congressman. If you don’t live in the U.S. write your relevant governmental agency and thank them profusely.

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