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Oncologists Offer Strategies for Reducing Cost of Cancer Drugs

Suggest letting Medicare negotiate prices; back grassroots movement calling for change

FRIDAY, July 24, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Soaring costs for cancer drugs are detrimental to patient care in the United States, say a group of oncologists. Recommendations on how to address the problem are presented in a commentary piece published online July 23 in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices is one of the suggestions the team of 118 leading cancer experts offered as a possible solution. Along with their recommendations, the group also expressed support for a patient-based grassroots movement on change.org that is demanding action on the issue.

The changes the commentary called for also included: (1) create a review mechanism after a drug has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that would propose a fair price for new cancer drugs that is based on the value to patients and health care; (2) allow the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute — established under the Affordable Care Act — to evaluate the benefits of new cancer therapies, and let similar organizations include drug prices in their assessments of a treatment’s value; (3) permit patients to import cancer drugs from other countries (e.g., prices in Canada are about half that of prices in the United States); (4) pass legislation to prevent drug companies from delaying the introduction of generic drugs, and reform the patent system to make it more difficult to unnecessarily extend patent protection of a drug; and (5) encourage groups that represent cancer specialists and patients to consider the overall value of drugs and treatments when developing their treatment guidelines.

“It should be possible to focus the attention of pharmaceutical companies on this problem and to encourage our elected representatives to more effectively advocate for the interests of their most important constituents among the stakeholders in cancer — American cancer patients,” the authors write.

The authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

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