Why Are the Costs of Cancer Drugs So High?

In Breast Cancer, Recent Posts by Barbara Jacoby

I don’t think that a single day goes by when I don’t encounter someone discussing the high cost of cancer drugs. Most often, the reason is that someone has been denied access to a particular drug because his/her insurance company will not cover its cost. As a result, the blame is usually shifted to the pharmaceutical companies that have created these treatments because they hold the patents on these medications and people choose to believe that they are just plain greedy and that they don’t care whether they hold the cancer patients as hostages in their need to make huge profits. As a result, I have been searching for some time now to find some answers about what it takes from the concept stage to bring a cancer drug to market and I have finally found a site that provides a pretty good layout of this process.

As cancer patients or those who are assisting them, I believe that we need to do advocacy in this area, too. If you or someone you know needs a particular treatment that is not covered wholly or in part by insurance, you may want to do some research of your own. Barbara Jacoby

Personally, I have always found it difficult to believe that pharmaceutical companies were in the business of cancer research in order to make money. If you are fortunate enough to meet some of the people from these companies, you will find that they are comprised of people like you and me who know first-hand about those who are dealing with or have dealt with cancer and as a result, they are driven to spend their lives working to help find answers and share the information with us. They are moved to do everything possible to keep others from having to suffer and die from the ravages of cancer that have affected most of them on a very personal level. They have dedicated their lives to research and most likely a history of failure after failure as they continue to learn more in order to turn those failures into a success that will produce a new treatment for cancer patients. And even if they reach a bit of success in their labs, it doesn’t mean that the results of a lifetime of work may ever see the light of day of an approved treatment.

Some people even believe that pharmaceutical companies, and for that matter, every single research center across the world from colleges and universities to privately funded groups don’t actually want to find a cure for cancer because then they will be out of work. But, if you really stop and think about it, you just might realize how distorted this thinking really is. Because of the very nature of cancers, just because you may one day be able to find a cure for breast cancer, that doesn’t mean that it will also cure lung cancer and prostate cancer and brain cancer and ovarian cancer, etc. Even within the world of breast cancer, there are so many different types and stages that have already produced such a wide-range of treatments used alone or in combinations in order to attack those cancers that already exist. And even if researchers were able to find a cure that covered all cancer types, they would still have work to do to find cures for diabetes and heart disease and lupus and muscular dystrophy and any of the hundreds of other diseases that continue to exist. And the cost of treatments for all of those other diseases will still be high because of the years that it takes to get from concept to market.

Therefore, I find that the solutions to the high costs of drugs and treatments do not lie in the assassination of the pharmaceutical companies who deserve fair compensation for the years of work that they have funded in order to bring a treatment to market and for the funds that they need in order to bring other treatments to patients. Rather, I believe that the focus needs to be placed on the insurance companies and transparencies in how they are making the determinations to pay for treatments. And for those who need treatments but do not have insurance and/or the funds to pay for all or even a part of those treatments, I believe that we need to provide better support to those organizations and groups and programs that are providing relief to patients through programs that they have in place for this purpose.

As cancer patients or those who are assisting them, I believe that we need to do advocacy in this area, too. If you or someone you know needs a particular treatment that is not covered wholly or in part by insurance, you may want to do some research of your own. You just might find that the pharmaceutical company has a program in place to help with the costs of their own treatments. Further, you might be able to find an organization that helps with costs or supplemental assistance when it comes to such needs. With expanded coverage and recognition and support of those who are providing assistance to those in need of treatments that they can’t afford, we are in a position to provide whatever resources that we personally can contribute to those who are truly in most need. In this way, we are all in a position to make a real difference for those dealing with cancer today.