Myeloma Civil War – High Cost of Cancer Drugs!

I have to begin this discussion letting the readers know that I love my myeloma drug dealers.  Without Thalamid and Velcade, I would not be writing this blog post today.  I am alive because these game changing drugs were part of the regimen which has keep me alive for the past 10 years.   In addition, I had great insurance which my wife had with her job in the school district, and Medicare was a backup, so I seldom had to pay anything myself.  I once told one of the drug manufactures which supported our IMF meeting, “I do not care how much the drugs cost as long as I do not have to pay for them.”   Recently I have watched two outstanding myeloma doctors from Mayo Clinic have a civil debate on twitter about the high cost of cancer drugs. I admire them both.   Dr. Rajkumar has taken the position that cancer drugs are outrageously priced and older drugs should not go up more than the increase in the cost of living index.  He is so right, and any thing more is a ripoff.  Dr Fonseca will argue without the profit motive to develop new drugs, there would be no new drugs for orphan diseases like myeloma or orphan diseases in general.  He is so right, and I am still alive because of this new drug development.  So how can these two terribly divergent views coexist and both be right.  I think they both have merit.  I will outline my thoughts on each in future posts.

Dr. Rajkumar is right for the following reasons:

1) Old drugs like Gleevex(Novaris) and Melphalan(GlaxoSmithKline) have had outrageous price increases over time. CLICK HERE or HERE
2) Drug companies cry high costs of R&D, yet prices are similar for high and low volume diseases. Fixed costs like R&D go down linearly with volume.  So for all of the most common cancers,  patients with breast, colon, and lung cancer are getting totally ripped off.

Dr. Fonseca is right for the following reason:

1) Profit is the only driver for Pharma companies for the development of new game changing drugs. Government and non profit cancer organizations try but are sadly incapable of properly funding cancer research, therefore Pharma must fill this gap. 

How can both of them be right.  I believe they are both correct, however sometimes, and I think that sometimes is now, government needs to make sure the playing field is level.  My original statement was, “Save me as long as I do not have to pay!”  Unfortunately some people can not pay for the out of control drug price increases.  It reminds me of an old skit by Jack Benny “Your Money Or Your LIFE?” because when someone has this kind of control over your life and death, I say that is a monopoly and the government has laws for that. 

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