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Cancer Drugs’ ‘Spectacular Costs’ Shift Market Dynamic, MDs Say at NCCN Annual Conference

HOLLYWOOD, Fla., March 16, 2007 — With patients forced to pay a greater percentage out of pocket for high-priced therapies, some companies have abandoned promising anti-cancer drugs rather than devote hundreds of millions of dollars to complete all phases of a clinical trial, an industry analyst said at the National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s 12th Annual Conference, March 14-18.

“There is a changing dynamic,” said Schumarry Chao, M.D., MBA, whose company advises CEOs on prescription drug pricing. “Companies are doing more market-driven research. In one case, a company decided based on the trend [of health insurers passing costs onto consumers] that it was not going to invest $400 million in Phase 3 and Phase 4 clinical trials and to pull the plug on the product.”

“It’s also about a much larger set of issues,” said Deborah Schrag, M.D., of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. “When the costs of prescription drugs go up, the premiums go up. It’s harder for employers to provide insurance.”

The roundtable discussion, titled “Cancer Care – Cost, Access, and Value,’’ came on the heels of a March 15 Wall Street Journal article listing the costs of treating cancer patients with drugs coming to market since 2004. Costs ranged from $36,000 to $67,000. According to NCCN panel member Lee Newcomer, M.D., MHA, of United Healthcare, the true cost of delivering one extra year of life to one patient with lung cancer is $354 thousand because of today’s cookie-cutter approach to chemotherapy: “You don’t know in advance who is going to respond.” Unfortunately, the subject of “what we are getting for the money” in terms of cancer therapies is “taboo,” Newcomer said.

About the National Comprehensive Cancer Network

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®), a not-for-profit alliance of 27 leading cancer centers, is dedicated to improving the quality and effectiveness of care provided to patients with cancer. Through the leadership and expertise of clinical professionals at NCCN Member Institutions, NCCN develops resources that present valuable information to the numerous stakeholders in the health care delivery system. As the arbiter of high-quality cancer care, NCCN promotes the importance of continuous quality improvement and recognizes the significance of creating clinical practice guidelines appropriate for use by patients, clinicians, and other health care decision-makers. The primary goal of all NCCN initiatives is to improve the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of oncology practice so patients can live better lives. For more information, visit

The NCCN Member Institutions are:

  • Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center
  • Case Comprehensive Cancer Center/University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center and Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute
  • City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center | Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center
  • Duke Cancer Institute
  • Fox Chase Cancer Center
  • Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah
  • Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center/Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
  • The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins
  • Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University
  • Mayo Clinic Cancer Center
  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • Moffitt Cancer Center
  • The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute
  • Roswell Park Cancer Institute
  • Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine
  • St. Jude Children's Research Hospital/The University of Tennessee Health Science Center
  • Stanford Cancer Institute
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center
  • UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • University of Colorado Cancer Center
  • University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center
  • Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center
  • Yale Cancer Center/Smilow Cancer Hospital