According to a new study led by New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the data showed that nearly $3 billion are wasted every year in cancer medicine. The main reason why this happens is because drug manufacturers provide cancer medicine in vials that have higher quantity in comparison to the majority of patients’ requirements.

Researchers have found that leftover medicine is thrown away after patients have been treated, said the study published in the British Medical Journal. Considering that drug makers could adapt to the standards in medicine doses for patients, it seems as a strategy designed not for the patients’ health, but for a business agenda.

Photo: ABC News
Photo: ABC News

“Drug companies are quietly making billions forcing little old ladies to buy enough medicine to treat football players and regulators have completely missed it, said co-author of the study Dr. Peter Bach, director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at MSK. “If we’re ever going to start saving money in health care, this is an obvious place to cut.”

Nurses who carefully measure the amount needed for a particular patient usually inject the expensive cancer drugs, yet if there’s leftover medicine, it’s discarded for safety concerns. And it’s crucial to mention that the ones paying for surplus medicine that ends up in the trash are the insurance companies and the patients.

Oversized single dose vials

For instance, a patient in need of 60 milligrams of the cancer medicine which only comes in a 50 milligrams presentation, forces nurses to open two vials in order to administer the sufficient amount of drug. Moreover, by having to open up the second 50 milligrams vial only to use 10 milligrams, there’s an 80 percent of the content going to waste. And considering that the remaining medicine can still be used within six hours of opening it, the medicine usually gets thrown away due to safety measures.

For the study, researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center looked at the top 20 cancer drugs that are badly packaged in single-dose vials and whose dose depends on the patient’s weight. The findings showed 33 percent of these medicines are unused after each dose is administered, a terrifying outlook considering the numbers represent 93 percent of cancer medicine sold nationwide.

Researchers hope that the federal regulators realize the issue and take proper measures to address the problem. Based on the findings, Peter Bach from the MSK Cancer Center and colleagues estimate that $1.8 billion of the projected 2016 revenue will be generated from cancer medicine tossed in the trash.

Source: The New York Times