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Scientists from two of the world’s leading cancer research institutes, the Institute of Cancer Research in the UK and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre, have criticised the cost of new cancer drugs as indefensible and unsustainable, stating “There is a clear and urgent necessity to lower cancer drug prices to keep lifesaving drugs available and affordable to patients”. Their article was originally published in the journal Cell last week.
In the US, the leading cause of personal bankruptcy can be attributed to the bills associated with cancer drugs, while in the UK, drugs that might prolong life are rejected for use within the NHS because of their price. The situation is confounded by drug combinations, for example treatment with the two new immunotherapy drugs, nivolumab and ipilimumab, costs $252,000, which is more than the median cost of a US home ($240,000 in 2016).
Professor Workman, chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, commented, “All this invention is meaningless if patients cannot afford these drugs. It is unsustainable. For those of us involved in research, it is disturbing that the amount of research that goes on and the success that is made is not translated into treatment for patients. And for patients it is a terrible situation.”