We’ve all been affected by cancer. Whether we’ve had it ourselves or know someone who had it or is battling it currently, cancer has touched our lives in profound ways.
These are the hard truths and sad realities associated with this deadly disease. But we have been making incredible strides.
New cancer medicines have helped cut the overall cancer death rate in the America by 20% since its peak in 1991. Since the 1970s, the 5-year survival rate has increased 21%for breast cancer, 50% for prostate cancer, 36% for colon cancer and 54% for lung cancer. And since the mid-1970s, survival rates for childhood cancers are up 58%.
To achieve results like this, there is inevitably going to be a high cost associated. I can’t think of an innovation that changed the world and wasn’t expensive.
On average, it takes 10-15 years and over $1.2 billion to bring a new cancer drug to market. What’s more, most don’t even make it to market in the first place. Getting FDA approval is an incredibly difficult, time consuming process.
For example, a new report being released this week shows that between 1998 and 2014, 167 potential lung cancer medicines failed in clinical testing while only 10 were approved. There are similar failure rates for medicines created to treat other forms of cancer.
With odds of success like these, it’s absolutely critical that we continue to invest in producing these life saving treatments.
Since 2000, America’s biopharmaceutical research companies have invested a half-trillion dollars researching and developing new medicines. Last year alone, this investment totaled more than $51 billion– more than any other industry in the world, including research-reliant businesses like computers and electronics. And in return, we now have 771 medicines and vaccines to treat or prevent cancer in medical trials awaiting FDA approval.
No doubt that we’re spending on a lot in investment, but we’re also getting a lot in return. Indeed, the argument that is commonly made that we should evaluate the cost of cancer medicines based on projected value to the average patient misses the point entirely.
Life is precious and fragile. And each person matters as much as the next. It follows that we must think about investment in cancer treatments in terms of the value they provide to individual patients.
We need to encourage pharmaceutical companies to couple high prices with efforts to get insurance companies to subsidize cancer treatments more aggressively. Those in desperate need with policies that may not cover the cost still deserve access to these high priced medicines.
I’m not saying that projected value doesn’t matter at all, but in a world where we can’t even know the full value of cancer medicines until years after the clinical treatment, we’ve got to focus on the impact and innovations that treatments are having on individuals lives.
It’s the people whose lives have been extended and improved that really matter.