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Delivering Health
Bringing Healthcare into the 21st Century

Price transparency is coming to cancer drugs. The New York Times reports that the American Society of Clinical Oncology is working on a “‘value framework'” system to make both the cost, including out-of-pocket costs to the patient, and the effectiveness of drugs more accessible:

“The reality is that many patients don’t get this information from their doctors and many doctors don’t have the information they need to talk with their patients about costs,” Dr. Richard Schilsky, chief medical officer of the oncology society, said in a news conference on Monday […]

Some of the sample valuations presented by the society were far from flattering for the drugs involved.

Roche’s Avastin, when added to chemotherapy, had a net health benefit of 16 out of 130 possible points when used as an initial treatment for advanced lung cancer. Its monthly cost was $11,907.87, compared to $182.09 for the chemotherapy alone.

Eli Lilly’s Alimta for that same use had a net heath benefit of zero with a cost exceeding $9,000 a month compared to about $800 a month for the drugs it was compared to in the clinical trial.

When patients get more information about the price of their care, they can make smarter choices about which treatments, procedures, and drugs they want to use. And studies show that when they are given that information, they often choose the cheaper option, lowering costs for themselves and throughout the system. It shouldn’t be so difficult for consumers to access this information, and we find it encouraging to see a medical society working to fix that in its own field. Price transparency won’t fix U.S. health care on its own, but it could help. It can’t come fast enough.

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  • Kevin

    In my view the FDA should focus more on providing information (as accurate and unbiased as possible) to physicians and the public and less on being a drug gatekeeper.

    Im glad to see physician groups like the above starting to step in and provide this information.

    However, I doubt this pricing and effectiveness information alone will do much to alter health care spending as most patients are shielded from the marginal costs being incurred and thus will be motivated by factors other than cost in the decisions they make. But providing the information could help on the margins and is good policy – and maybe we could build on it in the future.

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