Costs of Injectable Cancer Drugs Exceeds Inflation Rate

The costs of injectable cancer drugs have increased an average of 25 percent since 1996 – far outpacing the rate of inflation – according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The rising prices applied even to older drugs that have been available since the 1990s, the authors noted.

Researchers reviewed the average monthly costs for injectable cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) between 1996 and 2012. They accounted for discounts and rebates affecting average sales prices, per information from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

At a mean follow-up period of eight years, the changes in prices ranged from a 14 percent reduction to a 96 percent increase. After adjusting for inflation, the researchers determined that the average change in cost was an 18 percent increase (range = −16% to +59%). Brentuximab vedotin, for instance, cost $19,482 per month when it was introduced and went up 29 percent after inflation during the past four years.

The prices of some drugs went up an average of 6 percent or more per year when the inflation rate was just under 1.1 percent.

Factors such as new approvals by the FDA, expanded indications, and new competitors did not influence the yearly cost changes, according to the study. In fact, prices rose even with more competition.

“Regardless of competition or supplemental indications, there is a steady increase in costs of patented anticancer agents over time,” the authors concluded. “New regulations may be needed to prevent additional increases in drug costs after launch.” However, they added that the study is limited by a lack of comparison with the cost of other classes of cancer drugs, like newer oral chemotherapies.

Source: Reuters, October 18, 2017; Gordon N, Stemmer SM, Greenberg D, et al. Trajectories of injectable cancer drug costs after launch in the United States. J Clin Oncol. 2017 October 10. [Epub ahead of print]