Cancer: The $100 Billion Disease

Herceptin- A drug used to help treat breast cancer

Cancer treatment cost hit the $100 billion mark in 2014, according to a recent IMS Report.

Cancer treatment has rocketed in price in recent years, with the 2014 $100 billion estimate being $25 billion more than it was in 2009. This is an average raise of $5 billion per year.

The International Business Times reports that expense for cancer treatment is generally concentrated in the most developed countries in the world. The USA and the largest 5 Western European countries ; Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. The USA is spending the most by far, around $42.5 billion, more or less 40 percent of the total world expenditure on cancer treatments. This figure is predicted to reach $147 billion by 2018.

Graph showing the costs of cancer internationally

Unsurprisingly, this is due to large pharmaceutical companies creating more effective treatments for cancer – and with high effectiveness comes high cost; the most expensive treatments being for only a few patients who require specialist treatments for rare forms of cancer. Speciality treatments now make up around 50 percent of total cancer-related expenditures worldwide. To put this into perspective, a recently developed bone cancer drug called Blincyto, produced by Amgen, will cost a cancer patient an average of $64,000 per month and is predicted to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in it’s first year.

Unfortunately for U.S. patients, these costs are not subsidized very much by insurers. The cost of treating a cancer patient in the U.S. has risen by 39 percent in the past 10 years, though there was a 71 percent increase in the cost of intravenous drugs between 2012-2013 alone.

But, as stated before, cost and effectivity of the cancer drugs come hand in hand. More than two-thirds of patients diagnosed with various forms of cancer are predicted to survive for longer than 5 years post-diagnosis.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, recent news revelations from India report that certain cancer drugs in India will have a price cap.

Twelve cancer drugs will be placed on the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM), which means that the varying cost of cancer treatment in India would be stabilized, and so cancer treatment will be available to many more patients.

Any drug on the NLEM cannot cost more than the average cost of that type of medicine for all brands. For example, the innovator brand of Temozolomide costs (approx.) $3,400, but the variants from other brands cost (approx.) $318.

Dr. P Jukla, an oncology professor at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, was pleased about the decision of the inclusion of these 12 drugs.

“All of these are widely used and very useful drugs. Bringing them under price control will help a lot of patients”

A full list of the drugs being put on the NLEM can be found here.

At any rate, cancer treatment worldwide appears to be extortionate and it won’t be decreasing any time soon, unless Google’s cancer-killing watch becomes universally available.

[Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images]