Mayo Clinic physicians ID reasons for high cost of cancer drugs, prescribe solutions

October 01, 2012

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- A virtual monopoly held by some drug manufacturers in part because of the way treatment protocols work is among the reasons cancer drugs cost so much in the United States, according to a commentary by two Mayo Clinic physicians in the October issue of the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Value-based pricing is one potential solution, they write.

VIDEO ALERT: Video of Dr. Rajkumar discussing the commentary is posted on the Mayo Clinic News Network.

Cancer care is not representative of a free-market system, and the traditional checks and balances that make the free-market system work so efficiently in all other areas are absent when it comes to most cancer treatment," write authors, Mustaqeem Siddiqui, M.D., an oncologist and Vincent Rajkumar, M.D., a hematologist.

For example, when it comes to antibiotics to treat a given infection or over-the-counter painkillers, a physician or patient can choose between multiple drugs that do the same thing. But cancer drugs are administered to patients sequentially or in combination, creating a virtual monopoly for each drug. This is one of the principal reasons for the high cost of cancer therapy.

Other factors include the expense of drug development; the high price that patients and insurers are willing to pay for even modest improvement in outcomes; and a lack of regulations such as a cost effectiveness analysis to account for economic and value-based considerations in the drug approval and pricing process, the physicians write.

Solutions the authors recommend include:
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