Experts Band Together to Challenge Big Pharma

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In a possible sign of things to come, more than 100 influential hematologic cancer experts from across the globe signed their names recently to a commentary in a major medical journal to protest the high cost of life-saving cancer drugs.

The experts, from 15 different countries and led by Dr. Hagop M. Kantarjian, chairman of the leukemia department at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, have come together to encourage the opening of a dialogue with leading pharmaceutical companies. Their goal is to lower the pricing on some cancer drugs, some of which include the likes of Gleevec, which used to cost about $30,000 per year and now costs close to $100,000 annually. 

Among the cancer experts in this group is the head developer of Gleevec, Dr. Brian Druker.

Their collective commentary has been published in Blood, the journal of the American Society of Hematology.

In it, they argue that prices for many cancer drugs are not only extraordinarily high, but also unsustainable and possibly even immoral. They compare the high costs of drugs for chronic myeloid leukemia, which are required to be taken for life, to raising the price on essentials after a disaster. Put another way, pharmaceutical companies are engaged in profiteering.

"Advocating for lower drug prices is a necessity to save the lives of [these] patients," they write.

Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry contends that the high costs are justified by the investments made into research and development, and by their value to patients. 

This commentary is the latest physician-led salvo against the astronomical costs of medicine, and if current trends continue, it is not likely to be the last. 

Source: Blood

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