Skyrocketing Drug Prices Leave Cures Out of Reach for Some Patients

Published on January 5th, 2016

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Sophisticated drugs are opening the door, scientists say, to an era of “precision medicine.”

They’re also ushering in an age of astronomical prices.

New cancer drugs are routinely priced at more than $100,000 a year — nearly twice the average household income.

Experimental cholesterol drugs — widely predicted to be approved this summer — could cost $10,000 a year.

A drug for a subset of people with cystic fibrosis, a lung disease that kills most patients by their early 40s, commands more than $300,000 a year.

Even with insurance, patients might pay thousands of dollars a month out of pocket.

For many people, care for cancer and other serious diseases is “a doorway to bankruptcy or poverty,” said Timothy Turnham, executive director of the Melanoma Research Foundation. “It’s a tremendous economic burden.”

But patients aren’t the only ones paying.

Taxpayers underwrite the cost of prescription drugs provided by Medicare, Medicaid and other public insurance programs.

Spending on prescription drugs last year reached a record-breaking $374 billion, up 13% from 2013, with the largest percentage increase in more than a decade, said Clare Krusing,spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans. Almost half of that increase came from drugs launched in the past two years.

Some of the most expensive medications are “breakthrough” drugs, which are fast tracked by the Food and Drug Administration because of their potential to fill an unmet need, she said. Over the next decade, just 10 of these breakthrough drugs will cost the government nearly $50 billion.

People with private insurance could find themselves paying more out of pocket for health care if insurers raise premiums to cover their costs, Krusing said.

“We’re spending money we cannot afford,” said Leonard Saltz, chief of gastrointestinal oncology at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Yet Saltz said he can’t deny that some new drugs are game changers.

“I want these drugs and drugs like them available for my patients,” Saltz said.

Source: USA Today

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(This article was published and provided by the Alpha-1 Foundation)

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