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Why Are Cancer Drugs So Expensive?


Published Sep 20, 2022 • by AHIP

Every American deserves access to affordable, high-quality coverage and care — and that includes getting the medications they need at a cost they can afford. But drug prices are out of control. And while Big Pharma is posting record profits, too many hardworking Americans are forced to choose between paying their bills and accessing life-saving medicines.

Cancer patients rely on innovative, highly effective prescription drugs that can boost their quality of life, yet rising drug costs are potentially shutting the door to these life-saving treatments. A recent analysis from the Journal of the American Medical Association, for example, found that the median annual oncology drug spending per Medicare patient more than doubled in just 4 years. For Part B patients, per-patient spending increased from $9,325 to $18,761 from 2016 to 2020, and for Part D patients, per-patient spending increased from $27,761 to $52,016.

Per-Patient Spending Increases on Oncology Drugs

The proportion of Part B spending on oncology drugs also skyrocketed during the same period, from 34% to 43%, even though the proportion of Part B patients receiving oncology drugs was unchanged.

While drugmakers are creating life-saving cancer treatments, the problem remains the price. That’s why health insurance providers are committed to keeping health care affordable through negotiated drug rebates and discounts, returning those discounts to patients through lower premiums and drug costs, and saving millions of dollars for patients every day.

We should not have to choose between affordability and innovation when it comes to prescription drugs. We deserve both. And with the right solutions and genuine collaboration, we can achieve both.