Urgent action must be taken to address the dramatic rise of cancer drug prices and to better align prices with value, according to a report released March 13 by the President’s Cancer Panel. The panel is chaired by Dr. Barbara K. Rimer, dean and Alumni Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health.
The panel’s report, Promoting Value, Affordability and Innovation in Cancer Drug Treatment, finds that while some cancer drugs have been transformative and may warrant prices that reflect their value, many new drugs do not provide benefits commensurate with their prices. The panel concludes that stakeholders across the cancer enterprise – including drug developers and manufacturers, policy makers, government and private payers, health-care institutions and systems, providers and patients – must work together to maximize the value and affordability of cancer drug treatment and to support investments in science and research that drive future innovations.
“Cancer patients should not have to choose between paying for their medications or paying their mortgages,” Dr. Rimer said. “For so many, it is truly a matter of life and death. This is a national imperative that will not be solved by any one sector working alone.”
The report acknowledges that many factors influence a drug’s “value” and that the relative importance of these factors depends upon stakeholders’ perspectives. The panel concludes that, in defining the value of cancer drugs, patients’ benefit must be the central focus. When patients’ finances are strained, they are less likely to follow treatment regimens, potentially worsening health outcomes the drugs are intended to improve. The term “financial toxicity” describes the negative impact of cancer care costs on patients’ well-being. As with medical toxicities caused by cancer treatment, financial toxicity can impose a significant burden on cancer patients.
The panel’s report concludes that rapidly rising spending on cancer drugs is unprecedented and cannot be ignored, and that public-private collaboration is critical to ensure that patients receive high-quality cancer treatment and experience the best possible health outcomes without financial toxicity.
The panel sought input from stakeholders in multiple sectors who participated in a series of working groups to inform the development of the report and the panel’s recommendations.
The panel calls for action around three guiding principles:
The panel also identified six critical action items:
The President’s Cancer Panel consists of three members appointed by the President of the United States. Current members, appointed by former President Obama, include Dr. Rimer and Mr. Hill Harper, cancer survivor and four-time New York Times best-selling author, actor and philanthropist.
Dr. Owen N. Witte, University Professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics and director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at the University of California at Los Angeles, also contributed to the development and review of this report. Dr. Witte’s term on the panel concluded in August 2017.