The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Community News Network

April 16, 2014

Doctors to rate cost effectiveness of expensive cancer drugs

NEW YORK — The world's largest organization of cancer doctors plans to rate the cost effectiveness of expensive oncology drugs, and will urge physicians to use the ratings to discuss the costs with their patients.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology is weighing efficacy, side effects and price using an algorithm to determine the relative value of drugs, focusing first on therapies for advanced cases of lung and prostate cancer and for multiple myeloma, said Richard Schilsky, the group's chief medical officer. The task force developing the system plans to present it for public comment later this year, he said.

With the price of many cancer regimens reaching $10,000 a month, doctors need to communicate the medical implications of their care and, increasingly, the cost so patients can make the best decisions for themselves and their families, panel members said.

"Cancer is one of the primary reasons families go bankrupt today," said Gary Lyman, an oncologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and a member of the task force. "Often families are mortgaging their houses to pay for these expensive drugs. We want to make sure families understand both the benefits of what we can do, and the financial impact."

Too often, those who can't afford a medicine "either go elsewhere and get inferior treatment, or they stop treatment altogether because they're embarrassed to be poor," he said.

While companies including London-based AstraZeneca, a maker of cancer drugs, and UnitedHealth Group Inc., the largest U.S. health insurer, have representatives working with the panel, the "sense" of the members is that the cancer physicians "need to be in the driver's seat here," Lyman said in a telephone interview.

The task force, set to meet Thursday, doesn't plan to publish long lists of value ratings, Schilsky said. Rather, the aim is to provide the framework for a scoring system that will give doctors and patients options to discuss in determining how to proceed with care.

"We realize this is an important and somewhat sensitive issue," Schilsky said in a telephone interview. "ASCO is not setting itself up to be some national agency that makes pronouncements" on pricing.

Lowell Schnipper, the task force chairman, said the value ratings may cause drugmakers to reassess their pricing policies.

"My guess is that something like this can have a modulating effect," Schnipper, who is also chief of hematology and oncology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said in an interview. Such a system may keep companies whose drugs are "only a little bit better" from dramatically increasing the price.

ASCO "has been very active in defining guidelines for the appropriate management of problem x, y and z," Schnipper said. "But this is the first time it has ever approached the issue of the value of the treatments we offer."

Once the Alexandria, Va.-based cancer organization comes to a consensus on a rating system, "our hope is that we can expand the range of disease situations that can be included in this kind of analysis," he said.

The task force has been working on the value ratings for the past year, Schilsky said. Eventually, the rating system may be available online so doctors can access them on a hand-held device at the point of therapy, according to Lyman.

"By putting that information in front of the oncologist, we expect it will change behavior," Lyman said.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network
  • Why a see-through mouse is a big deal for scientists

    A group of Caltech researchers announced in Cell Thursday their success in making an entire organism transparent. Unfortunately, this isn't any kind of "Invisible Man" scenario: The organism in question is a mouse, and the mouse in question is quite dead.

    July 31, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 2.12.55 PM.png VIDEO: Five-year-old doesn't want her brother to grow up

    Sadie, an adorable 5-year-old from Phoenix, wants her brother to stay young forever, so much so that her emotional reaction to the thought of him getting older has drawn more than 10 million views on YouTube.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • lockport-police.jpg Police department turns to Facebook for guidance on use of 'negro'

    What seems to be a data entry mistake by a small town police department in western New York has turned into a social media firestorm centered around the word "negro" and whether it's acceptable to use in modern society.

    July 31, 2014 3 Photos

  • The virtues of lying

    Two computational scientists set out recently to simulate the effects of lying in a virtual human population. Their results, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, show that lying is essential for the growth of a cohesive social network.

    July 31, 2014

  • Sunburn isn't the only sign of summer that can leave you itchy and blistered

    You've got a rash. You quickly rule out the usual suspects: You haven't been gardening or hiking or even picnicking, so it's probably not a plant irritant such as poison ivy or wild parsnip; likewise, it's probably not chiggers or ticks carrying Lyme disease; and you haven't been swimming in a pond, which can harbor the parasite that causes swimmer's itch.

    July 30, 2014

  • Survey results in legislation to battle sexual assault on campus

    Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill joined a bipartisan group of senators Wednesday to announce legislation that aims to reduce the number of sexual assaults on college campuses.

    July 30, 2014

  • An alarming threat to airlines that no one's talking about

    It's been an abysmal year for the flying public. Planes have crashed in bad weather, disappeared over the Indian Ocean and tragically crossed paths with anti-aircraft missiles over Ukraine.

    July 30, 2014

  • Sharknado.jpg Sharknado 2 set to attack viewers tonight

    In the face of another "Sharknado" TV movie (the even-more-inane "Sharknado 2: The Second One," premiering Wednesday night on Syfy), there isn't much for a critic to say except to echo what the characters themselves so frequently scream when confronted by a great white shark spinning toward them in a funnel cloud:
    "LOOK OUT!!"

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140729-AMX-GIVHAN292.jpg Spanx stretches into new territory with jeans, but promised magic is elusive

    The Spanx empire of stomach-flattening, thigh-slimming, jiggle-reducing foundation garments has expanded to include what the brand promises is the mother of all body-shaping miracles: Spanx jeans.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Medical marijuana opponents' most powerful argument is at odds with a mountain of research

    Opponents of marijuana legalization are rapidly losing the battle for hearts and minds. Simply put, the public understands that however you measure the consequences of marijuana use, the drug is significantly less harmful to users and society than tobacco or alcohol.

    July 29, 2014