No Easy Answers for Rise in Drug Prices

MedPage Today

WASHINGTON The current trend toward steeply rising prices for specialty drugs should not be allowed to continue, several experts said Thursday.

We are willing to pay more to get more but were probably not willing to pay more each for benefits that are smaller each time,Peter Bach, MD, director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, said at a briefing here sponsored by theCampaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, a program of the National Coalition on Health Care. We cannot continually push a rock up a hill that is steeper and steeper.

He noted that in the case of drugs for colorectal cancer, for example, the price of 8 weeks of treatment has increased 100-fold, but the newest treatments extend survival for only 2 months, compared with a 9-month survival increase for the previous generation of treatments. When prices rise faster than gains, thats diminishing returns, Bach said.

He also disputed the notion that new, pricey treatments for hepatitis C save money over the long run because patients avoid complications and liver transplants. That isnt correct from an economic perspective, Bach said. Instead, you have to pay more in additional dollars to get additional health gains.

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