Prices of orally administered anticancer medications have dramatically increased during the last 10 years, according to researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Entry costs may be higher than before while they continue to rise over time. As a consequence, patients may be impacted by cost burden.

Researchers found that a monthly coverage of drugs introduced in 2014, was six times more expensive than in 2000, after taking medical inflation into account. Study details were published Thursday in the journal JAMA Oncology.

Photo credit: Prevention
Prices of orally administered anticancer medications have dramatically increased during the last 10 years. Photo credit: Prevention

Anticancer pills that entered the market in 2000 cost an average of $1,869 per month while drugs approved in 2014 cost $11,355 per month. The major trend observed is that these medications are getting more expensive every year, said study author Stacie Dusetzina, Ph.D., member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“Patients are increasingly taking on the burden of paying for these high-cost specialty drugs as plans move toward use of higher deductibles and coinsurance, where a patient will pay a percentage of the drug cost rather than a flat copay,” Dusetzina said in a press release issued Thursday.

Which is the impact of anticancer medication price increases?

Within the past 10 years, the development of orally administered anticancer drugs has been boosted. However, price increases may be affecting patient’s access to drugs, since they need to pay extra fees for health care, or determined percentages of a drug they need for treatment.

Dusetzina analyzed costs assumed by health insurance companies and patients. The data was obtained from the Truven Health MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters database, according to the University of North Carolina.

Imatinib, which is used to treat certain types of leukemia and gastrointestinal stromal tumors, was among the drugs with higher price increments, when considering monthly spending. It went from $3,346 to $8,479 between 2001 and 2014, which represents an average annual change of 7.5 percent, said researchers on Thursday.

Nearly 172,000 people might be diagnosed with leukemia in 2016 in the United States, while every 9 minutes someone dies from blood cancer, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Dusetzina said that costs taken on by patients depend on their health care benefits.

As prices increase, patients need to assume extra costs, even when commercially insured health plans tend to offer “generous” coverage for orally administered cancer drugs, Dusetzina added.

The study considered commercial health plans, but it did not include data about spending by Medicaid and Medicare. Only treatments that were dispensed and reimbursed were taken into account while rarely used products were excluded from the data.

New oral cancer therapies may be more expensive due to better patient outcomes

A theory suggests that oral cancer therapies could be showing better results for patients, according to Shawn Osborne, vice president of Pharmacy and Supply Chain Services at University Hospitals of Cleveland, who talked to ABC News.

Osborne explained that these kinds of targeted therapies are more pleasant that chemotherapy. As a result, manufacturers may be charging more. Nonetheless, drug prices would stop increasing at the same levels, in the future.

“I do think that with these drugs there’s a balance out there that will be struck at some point,” he said to ABC News.

Source: JAMA Oncology