It’s big news this week that Medicare will cover Avastin for advanced breast cancer and Provenge for advanced prostate cancer, but today we thought we’d share an interesting piece with you by Chris Woolston in The Los Angeles Times:
Footing the bill for these drugs might seem like the compassionate thing to do. After all, not many patients could afford the roughly $100,000 for a year’s worth of Avastin or the $93,000 for a full course of Provenge. Those are prices you’d expect to see in a super-high-end luxury car showroom, not a hospital pharmacy.
But this particular form of compassion doesn’t greatly improve people’s lives. While Avastin might help lengthen the lives of a few women with breast cancer, the benefit is so small and so rare that it has yet to show up in a single large-scale study, which is why an FDA panel recently ruled to disapprove the drug as a treatment for breast cancer. Provenge does somewhat better; studies have found that the drug can lengthen a patient’s life by about four months. That works out to about $18,600 for each extra month.
Of course, it’s impossible to put a price tag on a person’s survival. For men with advanced prostate cancer, each bonus month might truly be worth $18,600. But at a time of soaring healthcare costs, the government will eventually have to take a hard look at all of the big-ticket drugs that it currently covers.
- CMS To Review Prostate Drug Provenge for Medicare Coverage Today
- Medicare Committee Recommends Payment for Provenge for Some Prostate Cancer Patients
- The Donut Hole: How Expensive Are Cancer Drugs for Seniors with Medicare?
- How Far Are You Into the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug “Donut Hole”?
- UnitedHealth Group Announces $2 Generic Prescription Drugs in Medicare Plans