Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Costs of Cancer Treatment

Something to think about from a Slate book review, via Thus Spake Zuska:
Provenge has shown some success against advanced prostate cancer. But it also costs about $93,000. Gleevec can cost $4,500 per month. Revlimid, another cutting-edge treatment for multiple myeloma, can cost $10,000 per month. It's hard to see how these prices might come down when the market consists of patients increasingly fragmented not only by type of cancer but even by types of mutation.
Or course this isn't a call for 'silver bullet' treatments; cancer isn't just one disease. But the economics can be tricky. Simple supply and demand suggests that market fragmentation and personalized medicine will only drive prices up and split research dollars. It isn't quite so simple, though. Most personalized medicines will be built on common technologies which could even have the opposite effect - higher demand for core technology, modified on a case-by-case basis. Still, looking at the above costs of cancer treatment, I'm glad to live in a country with universal health care.