This may be Democrats’ best chance to cut drug prices


In the meantime, the types of prescription drugs available – and their prices – have changed. Revlimid is just one of many very expensive cancer drugs. About 1.5 million Medicare beneficiaries were eligible for the catastrophic benefit in 2019, often resulting in thousands of dollars in bills. Many raise funds by applying for grants from foundations, running GoFundMe campaigns or refinancing their homes. Researchers have developed a whole field of study on “financial toxicity,” which worsens the health outcomes of cancer patients.

“Patients forgo vacations, they forgo retirement, they forgo what they can buy at the grocery store – it’s just tragic,” said Craig Cole, a hematologist who treats myeloma patients and is an assistant professor at Michigan State University. When diagnosing the disease in a patient, he always has the patient meet with a social worker, too, to discuss how to pay for the drug. “You have cancer and, yes, you can put the cancer into remission. But you have to live with the specter of financial toxicity.

Pharmaceutical companies claim that their high profits allow them to invest in finding new treatments and cures that may be financially risky to develop. Most industry experts agree that a less profitable pharmaceutical sector would be one with fewer new drugs in the future, although they disagree on the number. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that a drug pricing system like the one passed by the Democratic House in 2019 would mean around 30 fewer new drugs over the next decade, a reduction of around 10%.

“The real fear is that venture capital will dry up in the small biotech industry because the risk has increased dramatically,” said Lori Reilly, COO of industry group PhRMA. “The biggest impact is on the patients, quite frankly, who are waiting for someone to develop therapy for them or for someone they love.”

Patients and clinicians with multiple myeloma also feel this tension. Revlimid can extend life expectancy, but for most patients, myeloma is still a fatal disease. The hope is that a future drug will be a real cure.

While supporting the pressure for price controls, Dr Cole also said: “One fear I have is: what if we overdo it? “

Bristol Myers Squibb defends the high price of Revlimid by highlighting its important health effects and the company’s ongoing research into treatments for myeloma. “The value of Revlimid is demonstrated by its significant contributions to improving the survival rates of patients with multiple myeloma,” said Caitlin Craparo, spokesperson for the company. His statement says the company supports efforts to reduce costs for patients.

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