New Cancer Therapies Come at a Price

Writing in Kaiser Health News, health economist Peter Neumann describes how new therapies offer hope to cancer patients, but many new drugs come at an exorbitant cost. Oncologists must weigh these realities when prescribing cancer treatments.

For instance, eighty-four percent report that their impressions of patient out-of-pocket costs influence their prescribing decisions. More than 70 percent agreed that “over the next five years, costs of new cancer drugs will play a more significant role in my decisions regarding which cancer treatments to recommend for my patients.”

On the other hand, most oncologists do not seem to talk regularly to their patients about costs. In our survey, only 43 percent stated that they always or frequently discuss cancer treatment costs with their patients, while 37 percent say they occasionally do and 20 percent say rarely or never.

This disconnect between considering costs, but not discussing costs with patients reflects how uncomfortable oncologists are with the trade-off between cancer therapies and cost.

Comments (10)

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  1. Devon Herrick says:

    The discomfort oncologists feel having to discuss both the costs and benefits of a given therapy suggests how little competition there is in the cancer treatment field. In other areas, a provider of service would communicate costs and benefits or face going out of business.

  2. KG says:

    Great post! If there is one thing these patients deserve, it’s honesty.

  3. Bruce says:

    It’s a mad, mad world.

  4. //Sarah Onach says:

    When doctors do talk to their patients the subject of cost often does come up, it just never goes anywhere.

  5. Linda Gorman says:

    In a world of third party payment, why should patients care about costs? They’ve already paid and they get no value unless they use services.

  6. James says:

    What I find most upsetting is how the physicians seem to think it’s THEIR decision whether costs are relevant and whether they should be discussed as opposed to the patient’s decision.

    Patients are not blameless. If they would open their mouths, ask how much something costs and tell the doctor they can’t afford something rather than sitting there like someone who has no say in the matter, that would go a long way. If you allow someone to feel responsible for you, then they’ll behave as though they are.

  7. Kartik says:

    Managed care and Socialized health care work in very similar ways – pay for every little sniffle but when it comes to something expensive, it can be tough. In countries like Canada, supply is so highly controlled for that reason. The provincial insurance plans pay so much for routine expenses and little problems that a lot of the latest technologies and treatments are either only extremely sparingly available or not at all.

    And this thing of the uninsured don’t get health care?! Of course they do! There are philanthropic organizations all over America that are dedicated to that. Free clinics, retail clinics, you name it. They do face barriers of course, and we need to make it easier for them to buy Insurance (TRUE insurance, not pre paid bru haha). Universal choice works better. Universal health care can never exist – just because everyone has coverage doesn’t mean access is universal. It’s not possible.

  8. Virginia says:

    I agree with James. Give the cancer patients a choice of medicines. Let the market decide who uses what meds.

  9. Carolyn Needham says:

    Wow, I can’t believe this. I think Devon is right on here.

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