CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

Health

April 16, 2014

Doctors to rate cost effectiveness of expensive cancer drugs

NEW YORK — The world's largest organization of cancer doctors plans to rate the cost effectiveness of expensive oncology drugs, and will urge physicians to use the ratings to discuss the costs with their patients.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology is weighing efficacy, side effects and price using an algorithm to determine the relative value of drugs, focusing first on therapies for advanced cases of lung and prostate cancer and for multiple myeloma, said Richard Schilsky, the group's chief medical officer. The task force developing the system plans to present it for public comment later this year, he said.

With the price of many cancer regimens reaching $10,000 a month, doctors need to communicate the medical implications of their care and, increasingly, the cost so patients can make the best decisions for themselves and their families, panel members said.

"Cancer is one of the primary reasons families go bankrupt today," said Gary Lyman, an oncologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and a member of the task force. "Often families are mortgaging their houses to pay for these expensive drugs. We want to make sure families understand both the benefits of what we can do, and the financial impact."

Too often, those who can't afford a medicine "either go elsewhere and get inferior treatment, or they stop treatment altogether because they're embarrassed to be poor," he said.

While companies including London-based AstraZeneca, a maker of cancer drugs, and UnitedHealth Group Inc., the largest U.S. health insurer, have representatives working with the panel, the "sense" of the members is that the cancer physicians "need to be in the driver's seat here," Lyman said in a telephone interview.

The task force, set to meet Thursday, doesn't plan to publish long lists of value ratings, Schilsky said. Rather, the aim is to provide the framework for a scoring system that will give doctors and patients options to discuss in determining how to proceed with care.

"We realize this is an important and somewhat sensitive issue," Schilsky said in a telephone interview. "ASCO is not setting itself up to be some national agency that makes pronouncements" on pricing.

Lowell Schnipper, the task force chairman, said the value ratings may cause drugmakers to reassess their pricing policies.

"My guess is that something like this can have a modulating effect," Schnipper, who is also chief of hematology and oncology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said in an interview. Such a system may keep companies whose drugs are "only a little bit better" from dramatically increasing the price.

ASCO "has been very active in defining guidelines for the appropriate management of problem x, y and z," Schnipper said. "But this is the first time it has ever approached the issue of the value of the treatments we offer."

Once the Alexandria, Va.-based cancer organization comes to a consensus on a rating system, "our hope is that we can expand the range of disease situations that can be included in this kind of analysis," he said.

The task force has been working on the value ratings for the past year, Schilsky said. Eventually, the rating system may be available online so doctors can access them on a hand-held device at the point of therapy, according to Lyman.

"By putting that information in front of the oncologist, we expect it will change behavior," Lyman said.

 

1
Text Only
Health
  • COMMENTARY: An alternative diagnosis to ADHD: Schoolchildren need more time to move

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that in recent years, there has been a jump in the percentage of young people diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD: 7.8 percent in 2003 to 9.5 percent in 2007 to 11 percent in 2011.

    July 18, 2014

  • Guideline: Most healthy women can skip pelvic exam

    No more dreaded pelvic exam? New guidelines say most healthy women can skip the yearly ritual.

    July 1, 2014

  • Sanofi targets fake Viagra market with non-prescription Cialis

    Sanofi sees an attractive opportunity in the rampant market for counterfeit Viagra: luring men away from dodgy online pharmacies with an over-the-counter version of a competing erection drug.

    June 5, 2014

  • Hospital charges to treat chest pain jump 10 percent in a year

    The charge to treat Medicare patients with chest pain at U.S. hospitals rose 10 percent to $18,568 in just a year, the biggest rise seen among the most common inpatient procedures, according to federal data.

    June 2, 2014

  • Study: Both men and women feel less stress at work than at home

    In a newly released study in the Journal of Science and Medicine, researchers carefully examined the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, of a variety of workers throughout the day. The data clearly showed that both men and women are significantly less stressed out at work than they are at home.
     And the women they studied said they were happier at work. While the men said they felt happier at home.

    May 26, 2014

  • Jobless contend with weight gain as they search for work

    A subject long ignored by policymakers, and one that unemployment counselors are too sheepish to raise with job seekers, the link between bulging waistlines and joblessness is now of intense interest to researchers studying the long-term effects of the country's economic malaise.

    May 12, 2014

  • COMMENTARY: Helmets won't protect your kids from concussions

    When I was a kid, helmets were for motorcyclists. Now I see children wearing helmets when they're scooting down sidewalks, skating, skiing, sledding and playing soccer. Last week one of my friends saw a helmeted kid power-walking in Prospect Park. You can even buy $40 baby helmets on Amazon, because, according to the product description, "babies will always fall taking their first steps."

    May 2, 2014

  • 400px-Cannabis_Plant.jpg How bad is marijuana for your health?

    The Journal of Neuroscience recently published a study linking recreational marijuana use to subtle changes in brain structure. The researchers, led by Jodi Gilman of Massachusetts General Hospital, identified increased gray matter density in the left nucleus accumbens and some bordering areas.

    May 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • American sunscreens need an upgrade

    The last time a new sunscreen ingredient came on the U.S. market, the Y2K bug was threatening to destroy our way of life. Intel had just introduced the Pentium III processor, featuring an amazing 500 MHz of computing power.

    April 24, 2014

  • Cuba is running out of condoms

    The newest item on Cuba's list of dwindling commodities is condoms, which are now reportedly in short supply. In response, the Cuban government has approved the sale of expired condoms.

    April 23, 2014