Tags: cancer | doctors | drug | costs

Leading Cancer Doctors Blast Cost of Drugs in Letter

Thursday, 25 Apr 2013 07:14 PM

By Greg Richter

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A hundred leading cancer specialists from around the globe have authored a commentary asking drug companies to lower their prices.

“Pharmaceutical companies have lost their moral sense,” Dr. Hagop M. Kantarjian tells The New York Times. Kantarjian, chairman of the leukemia department at MD Anderson Cancer Center, is the lead author of the article appearing in Blood, the journal of the American Society of Hematology.

“If you are making $3 billion a year on Gleevec, could you get by with $2 billion?” asked Dr. Brian Druker, director of the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health and Science University. “When do you cross the line from essential profits to profiteering?”

Some cancer drugs cost $100,000 a year, making them impossible to afford for many patients, the commentary says. About 30 of the doctors signing the commentary were from the United States.

They say that charging high prices for medicine necessary to keep patients alive is like raising prices for needed supplies after a natural disaster.

Drug companies counter that most patients don’t have to pay the full cost and that they give away the medicines in impoverished countries.

The doctors’ commentary focused only on drugs to treat chronic myeloid leukemia, because that is their specialty, but they noted that prices for other cancer drugs aren’t any better.

Many of the doctors who authored the piece work with pharmaceutical companies in research. Others declined to put their names on the document for fear of losing research funding.

Kantarjian tells the Times he expects to be blackballed, but felt it was time to speak up. Drug prices “are getting to the point where it is becoming unsustainable,” he said.

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