New cancer drugs' costs enormous 
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 New cancer drugs' costs enormous

New cancer {*filter*}' costs enormous
By Michelle Fay Cortez
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 07.22.2004

The cost of treating America's colon-cancer patients with ImClone System
Inc.'s Erbitux and other new {*filter*} for eight weeks would top $1 billion
while adding months to their lives, according to an article in today's New
England Journal of Medicine.

Five {*filter*} approved since 1996, including Pfizer Inc.'s Camptosar and
Genentech Inc.'s Avastin, doubled what used to be a one-year life span for
patients with advanced cancer, wrote Deborah Schrag, an oncologist from
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. The cost of treatment
soared to more than $30,000 for eight weeks of therapy with some {*filter*}, up
from $63 in the early 1990s.

"The near-doubling of the median survival achieved over the past decade
has been accompanied by a staggering 340-fold increase in drug costs," she
wrote. "At this pace, escalating drug costs will pose an insurmountable
obstacle for the realization of advances in biomedical research."

Schrag's article accompanies publication of a study used to win U.S.">food
and Drug Administration approval of Erbitux for some colon-cancer patients
in February. The study found Erbitux plus Camptosar halted cancer
progression for an average of 4.1 months in patients who no longer
benefited from other treatments, while Erbitux alone stopped the worsening
of the disease by an average of 1.5 months.

About 32,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with advanced colorectal
cancer, and another 24,000 have a recurrence of the disease, according to
the American Cancer Society. The first two months of treatment generate a
bill of $1.2 billion for drug costs alone. Patients whose disease worsened
each racked up an extra $30,000 for eight weeks of treatment with Erbitux
and Camptosar, Schrag said.

"In the wake of the optimism generated by recent trial results, patients
experience sticker shock when they encounter the prices of chemotherapy
{*filter*}," she said. "Unfortunately, such costly treatment will not provide a
cure; one can only speculate about the relative effect of directing these
resources toward screening and prevention."

The study involving 329 patients in 11 European countries was sponsored by
German drug maker Merck KgaA, which has the right to market Erbitux in
Europe. ImClone and its U.S. marketing partner, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.,
won FDA approval of Erbitux for patients who don't respond to other {*filter*}
in February.

"The cost of Erbitux was determined through a complex process," including
the cost of development, clinical research and manufacturing, Tracy Furey,
a Bristol-Myers spokeswoman, said in an interview. A genetically
engineered drug given intravenously, "it is far, far more complex and
expensive to manufacture than small-molecule {*filter*}, such as pills."

Uninsured people can apply for a program that has provided $1.4 million
worth of Erbitux to qualified patients since the drug hit the market in
February, she said. Officials from ImClone, Pfizer and Genentech didn't
return phone calls requesting comment.

ImClone's shares tumbled as much as 20 percent after the company said
second-quarter sales of Erbitux, its only marketed product, lagged
analysts' estimates. Erbitux alone carries a price tag of about $10,000 a

The public hasn't been much involved in debating the expense and insurance
coverage for new {*filter*}, and the government's Medicare program for the
elderly that pays for most cancer treatments is prohibited from
negotiating lower prices, Schrag said. Some uninsured patients mortgage
their houses or take loans to cover the expense, while even co-payments
cause financial problems for others, she said.

"Most patients are getting these treatments, and insurers are covering
them, which is fabulous, but it's unbelievably expensive," Schrag said.
"Sooner or later, we're going to have to confront the cost issue."

Wed, 30 Apr 2008 09:14:17 GMT
 [ 1 post ] 

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