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Will Cancer Drugs Achieve Greater Affordability?

Cancer is bad news all around, not just for those who've contracted the disease but also for the people around them who are affected in one way or another, particularly families and loved ones. Finding out that you have cancer is bad enough. Dealing with the cost that comes with managing it, which hardly justifies the outcome, just makes matters a whole lot worse.

The use of cancer drugs on an annual basis cost somewhere around $100,000 give or take. In the United States, the average income per household annually is approximately $52,000. Even with health insurance, a cancer patient requiring a drug that costs somewhere in the vicinity of $120,000 would still incur about $25,000 to as much as $30,000 in out-of-pocket expenses. And there are still other expenses to be considered like doctors' professional fees and hospital payments.

Cancer drugs are most likely years or possibly even decades from being considered a legitimate cure. All these drugs do at the moment is prolong a cancer patient's lifespan by a few weeks, months, or years with some luck. But it would be an enormous advantage for cancer patients and their families if cancer drugs achieved greater affordability, and even better if it's sooner rather than later.

Why cancer drugs are so expensive

A number of factors contribute to the high price of cancer drugs. For one, research and development for these drugs cost a lot. By a lot, we're talking about billions of dollars.

One major contributor to the cost is the amount of time spent in making a cancer drug available in the market, the average being eight years, and that includes the period from the start of clinical trials to approval of the drug for use. And of course, pharmaceutical companies need to pay for their researchers and staff involved in the development of the drug as well as for equipment used and other materials that were used up.

Another factor that contributes to high pricing is the monopoly of each available cancer drug in the market. Simply put, cancer drugs are not like other drugs in the sense that cancer patients are most likely going to use up all available options for a particular malignancy because it's basically incurable and at some point patients may stop responding to one brand and are then started on another, thus eliminating competition among different brands, whereas for treating a condition like a urinary tract infection, you'll only be needing one brand of antibiotic.

And the severity of the disease itself as well as human nature play a part in the high cost of cancer drugs. With cancer being incurable and our tendency of wanting to hold on to and save our loved ones, pharmaceutical companies are able to get away with the prices of cancer drugs because people were willing to pay for them.

How cancer drugs can become more affordable

In light of cancer drugs being so expensive and how to make cancer management more sustainable, a group of experts have already come together to address the issue. They've already come up with some proposals which may help bring about change and improvement.

Some of these include allowing health insurance companies like Medicare to negotiate for better drug pricing, including the prices of drugs in the assessment of treatment value, and allowing the entry of imported drugs for personal use as drugs cost less in other countries. There are many more ways to bring down the price of cancer drugs so it is not at all impossible to make cancer care and management more sustainable.

It would be a huge deal if these proposals pushed through in making cancer drugs more affordable. This would greatly improve conditions for cancer patients and their families from all over the world.

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