Cancer is expensive. In 2015, the average cost of a course of chemotherapy cost a staggering $140,000 per year. That’s $2,692 per week… or a crippling $384.62 per day.
Think that’s bad? Just one year later, the average cost of chemo treatment jumped to $172,000 per year. That’s $471.23 per day – a rise of more than 22% in just one year!
But it’s worth it, right? I mean, how do you put a price on extending – or at least improving – the life of a loved one.
I hope you’re sitting down.
Because a study released last year showed the 48 new cancer drugs approved in Europe between 2009 and 2013 have a miserable track record.
These drugs improved quality of life (QoL) in only 10% of their applications. And they showed no benefit at all in 57% of the applications for which they were approved. Half (49%) showed no improvement in survival or QoL after approval.
In other words, many of these new drugs add to the cost of cancer treatment. But they provide virtually no meaningful benefit.
Yet the cost of these drugs is driving many cancer patients – and their families – into financial ruin. But you know who’s doing okay?
Big Pharma. Stock prices are way up… based, in part, on cancer drugs that do almost nothing.
But Drug Research Is Expensive, Isn’t It?
For years, drug companies have excused predatory pricing with the excuse that bringing a new drug to market is prohibitively expensive.
They’re forced to spend so much to prove a drug’s safety and effectiveness, they say, that new drugs have to be priced at stratospheric levels.
But, as the Washington Post pointed out in 2015, 9 out of the 10 biggest drug companies spend more on marketing than on research and development (R&D).
Johnson & Johnson shelled out 113% more, for example, for marketing activities than for R&D in 2013. Pfizer spent 73% more on marketing than on R&D. And Novartis dropped 47% more on marketing programs than on R&D.
The only exception in the top ten? Roche. They spent a whopping 3% more on R&D than on marketing in 2013.
Much of this marketing money is paid – directly or indirectly – to doctors. How much? In 2012, drug companies spent 8 times more money marketing to doctors than to consumers. And you can’t turn around without seeing a drug company ad on TV or in a magazine.
The 2012 total? An incredible $24 billion to market drugs to doctors.
So the chances are good any doctor you see has been marketed to heavily by drug companies – and that includes doctors treating you or a loved on for cancer.
Plus, a recent study found the industry claim that it costs $2.6 billion to bring a new drug to market is simply wrong. The CEO of GlaxoSmithKline – a major drug manufacturer – called Big Pharma’s cost claims “one of the great myths of the industry.”
The truth is, you’re paying much of the cost of cancer drug development already.
According to Dr. Hagop Kantarjian, of the University of Texas-MD, the average drug company invests about 15 times more into marketing than into basic research.
Instead, Dr. Kantarjian notes, most basic research is funded with taxpayer dollars. And about half of all breakthroughs aren’t made by drug companies. Instead, these breakthroughs happen in university labs.
Dr. Kantarjian points out Big Pharma invests about 20% of its income in marketing and advertising… which only drives the cost of drugs higher.
Don’t Get Ripped Off While You or a Loved One Suffers
I’ll be honest here. It’s not easy to be completely rational when you or someone you love is suffering with cancer. So it’s easy just to do what the oncologist recommends.
But keep in mind these doctors are human. And they’re susceptible to any influence that you or I might be. Including the influence of drug companies offering them goodies.
Drug companies don’t buy medical offices lunch because they feel bad for the hard working medical pros in the office. They don’t offer doctors “educational” weekends at resorts out of the goodness of their hearts.
It’s good business, pure and simple. Big Pharma knows even doctors are swayed by benefits. They wouldn’t spend that $24 billion unless they thought the doctors they market to would return at least that much in business.
But all that money leads to use of better drugs, right?
Hardly. The Houston Chronicle looked at the numbers. The FDA approved 72 cancer drugs between 2002 and 2014. On average, these drugs extended the life of patients by just two months. And the Chronicle notes a 2015 study that found no link between new drugs’ cost and their effectiveness.
As hard as it may be, if a loved one is stricken with cancer, you need to research drug options. And don’t be afraid to ask the oncologist what they receive from the company that makes the drugs they recommend. (Including free samples, lunches, and other “small” gestures.)
In many cases, older, far less expensive drugs will provide the same – or even better – results. Your loved one will still have the best QoL available. But you may be able to avoid the financial ruin tied to new, overpriced cancer drugs with little of no discernable benefit.
About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.
Zand, B., “Why are cancer drugs more expensive than ever?” Houston Chronicle. Jan 22, 2018.
Davis, N., “Over half of new cancer drugs ‘show no benefits’ for survival or wellbeing,” The Guardian. Oct 5, 2017.
Swanson, A., “Big pharmaceutical companies are spending far more on marketing than research,” Feb 11, 2015.
Hirschler, B., “GlaxoSmithKline boss says new drugs can be cheaper,” Reuters. Mar 14, 2013.
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